A university located about 45 minutes from Carbondale is enjoying the highest enrollment numbers it has ever seen.
Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, Mo., has 11,729 undergraduate and graduate students on campus this fall — a 1.9 percent increase from last year, according to numbers recently released by the university.
This is the 18th-straight year of enrollment growth for the school, the data showed.
“We are thrilled so many students have chosen Southeast to pursue their educational goals,” said Debbie Below, associate vice president for enrollment management and director of admissions at SEMO. “We look forward to them completing their degrees here.”
The combined undergraduate and graduate student full-time equivalency rate is also up 1.3 percent from fall 2011, the data states. Below said the figures indicate the institution has more full-time and fewer part-time students this fall.
SEMO is at its second-highest retention rate in the past 10 years, Below said, with 73.8 percent of students returning from the spring semester.
Alyssa Schaffrin, an admissions officer at SEMO, said she understands why more students are choosing the school.
“To me, SEMO is the whole package,” she said. “It’s very affordable, even for an out-of-state student. It has over 200 areas of study, Division I athletics and a great sense of community with active student life.”
According to SEMO’s website, undergraduate students will each pay $9,588 in tuition and fees this year.
“Once students hear about SEMO and its low cost, high quality education, it is easy for them to see why it is a university of first choice for so many,” Schaffrin said.
While SEMO is experiencing growth, enrollment numbers released last month by SIU showed enrollment in Carbondale has declined for the eighth consecutive year.
SIU has 18,847 students enrolled at the university this fall, which is a a 970-student decline from last year’s 19,817.
Matt Studie, a junior accounting major at SEMO who grew up in southern Illinois, said he considered SIU but thinks he made the right decision.
“SEMO is a great school, and I chose it because it’s the home of the Harrison College of Business, which has been constantly ranked among the top 10 percent of business schools not only nationally but internationally as well,” he said.
Studie, who is from Marion, said he chose not to go to SIU because he wanted to be away from home and learn to live on his own.
“I thought SIU would be just a watered down version of community college in that I would have the same friends I always did in high school and not be able to branch out as much,” he said. “Also, living with or near my parents would have made me much less independent.”
Carly Crabtree, a freshman at SEMO from Marion, and Jessica Ninness, a junior at SEMO from Marion, said they chose SEMO because it offered more scholarship opportunities than SIU or other schools.
Ninness also said she liked the campus’ size and location. Jordan Murphy, a freshman at SEMO from Marion, said she chose the school because both her parents and her sister went there.
Nick Aholt, a senior from Owkaville studying paralegal studies, said he chose SIU over other regional schools because of what the university offers to veterans.
“I’m happy I came to SIU,” he said. “I went to a community college first and then SIUE, but this place is great to veterans and it gives me all I need.”
Elexus Ferrari, a freshman from Christopher studying anthropology, said she did not consider any other schools before choosing SIU.
“SIU was close enough where I could have some independence but could still go home if I needed to,” she said.
Schaffrin said she believes SEMO will continue to see enrollment increases during the next few years. She said the increased enrollment has brought more school funding and allowed it to improve its offerings, which will help further boost enrollment.
“Being a medium-sized school, you really get the best of both worlds,” she said. “We have many of the perks students are looking for in a large university, but we also have small class sizes and personal attention in students’ education.”