This fall, SIU-C has experienced a 4.5 percent increase in enrollment of new students leading to the largest Saluki freshman class in five years.
While freshman enrollment increased for the second year in a row, overall enrollment continues to slightly decline.
In a SIU-C press release, data showed that 75.5% of last year’s freshmen returned this fall and the number of new transfers increased 3.5% over last year to 1,175 students.
Compared to SIU-C data in 2016 less than 660 freshmen returned for the fall semester and fewer than 16,000 students were enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs. This marked a 7.6% decrease from 2015, yet enrollment for Fall 2021 seems to have stabilized.
Chancellor Austin Lane said it was thanks to faculty, staff and students going above and beyond that SIU-C was able to change the downward trajectory of these declines.
“I want to personally thank each of them for rallying around enrollment, and working tirelessly to show the unique opportunities future Salukis have,” Lane said.
Kim Rendfeld, chief communications officer at SIU-C, said that SIU-C no longer requires SAT and ACT test scores. The university launched the Saluki Commitment for graduating high school seniors and the Saluki Transfer Commitment for community college transfers, which are two programs that close financial gaps in tuition for Illinois students who qualify.
Lane said despite the challenges and obstacles faced by COVID, the campus community persevered.“The students followed safety protocols, and many became vaccinated,” Lane said. “Because of their diligence, we were among the first universities to in-person fall classes and activities, and we have kept that promise.”
Rendfeld said that SIU-C has taken several measures to increase enrollment including forming a task force, reinstituting scholarships, offering financial aid earlier, and reaching out to admitted students via phone calls and hundreds of handwritten postcards.
Kayleigh White, a freshman majoring in Chemistry with a focus on Biochemistry said that she heard about SIU-C through a college fair at her high school.
“The admissions coordinator had a table set up and really sold my friends and I on this school,” White said. “All three of the people that went up to his table that day are here at SIU now.”
White said SIU-C sent quite a bit of swag including emails, phone calls and merchandise.
“That did sway my decision slightly during my decision making process because it made me feel like SIU-C wanted me here, and that I could make it through college successfully,” White said.
Monika Fudala, a Masters student in Communication Studies said that there has been a lot of emphasis on self promotion for SIU-C.
“One example was when our chancellor was driving people around on a go-kart to class,” Fudala said. “This was a very personal gesture to get to know the chancellor, and it can help retain current students and stand out to prospective students,”
Rendfeld saidthe pandemic posed many challenges both on and off campus including restrictions in response to COVID-19 that prevented recruiters from visiting high schools and community colleges.
Fudala said SIU-C has changed over the last four years because her first year as a junior seemed the most lively, pre- COVID and her second year was depressing since her classes were online due to the pandemic.
“My third year has seemed to pick up a little bit, and I can tell people feel way better being back in person, but the overall mood still seems dampened because of the Delta variant,” Fudala said.
Despite the pandemic, Rendfeld said SIU-C is committed to providing fun, safe extracurricular activities that are compliant with current health and safety protocols.
These include Weeks of Welcome events to get new freshmen and returning students involved in the campus community.
Many of these activities range from Light Up the Lake, an evening of glow-in-the-dark fun and Dawg’s Night Out at the Student Center all the way to the RSO Involvement Fair and the Saluki Sprint where Saluki freshmen and new transfers sprint across the football field before the game.
“I did the Saluki Sprint when I transferred here in Fall 2019 which was very memorable,” Fudala said. “I also enjoy getting involved in clubs and going to events SIU has, like the Bob Ross Paint Night that COLA hosts every year.”
Fudala said the decrease in enrollment at SIU-C was due to SIU stopping their advertising.
“SIU-C stopped advertising a while ago and people only hear of our school and programs offered through word of mouth. I think that has had a huge impact on the decrease of enrollment in the last decade,” Fudala said.
Despite these obstacles, Rendfeld said SIU-C is focused on the future.
“SIU-C is truly the place to be. I’ve met a lot of really cool people here, and the general energy of the campus is really awesome,” White said.
Staff reporter Joel Kottman can be reached at [email protected] on Snapchat at @joelkottman and on Twitter at @JoelKottman
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