The SIU pack shrinks overall, but the first-year class is the largest in six years.

September 15, 2022

With class back in full swing, Southern Illinois University (SIU) has gotten a much needed influx of students. The number of first year undergraduate students is up 6.8%, according to the University, with 1,518 of them enrolled.

According to the SIU Enrollment Page, between 2017 and 2018 undergraduate enrollment dropped by 18%. In fall of 2021, SIU had the largest first year class it has seen since 2017 and this year surpassed that.

“For the third year in a row, we have increased our freshman class – for the first time since 2004,” Chancellor Austin Lane said. “In fact, this class is the largest in six years, and we are enjoying a second year of stable enrollment

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While Lane called it “stable,” total enrollment is down 1.4%, but that is considerably better than the precipitous drops of the 2017-18 period.

Amanda Everette, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions said, when it comes to recruiting students, the office tries to focus on reaching the lower level schools and telling them why SIU will be a good opportunity, and different departments will help them along the way.

“Really talking to them about the opportunities and then, based on when they’re planning on attending, then, driving them to apply […] and getting them connected with advisement and kind of pushing them forward through those next steps,” Everette said.

She said, when her department goes through the admissions applications, they go based on oldest to newest and try to prioritize applications based on what deadlines are coming up. 

Lane said there is still more work to be done.

“We’ll continue our focus on yielding more freshman, transfer, graduate and international students. We’re continually examining programming designed to help students be successful and retain them as Salukis. We will analyze the data further and see where we can improve, especially as the recruitment cycle for fall 2023 gets underway,” he said.

Wendell Williams, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management, said SIU offers students more than just an education.

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“The city of Carbondale and the surrounding areas that we have, is a great place for you to find yourself. That’s even before we start thinking about the great professors that we have, the great support team,” Williams said. “[…] The things that we hear the most from students, is that they fall in love with the area, they fall in love with the climate. They fall in love with SIU.” 

He said students who come here have an opportunity to explore and build a better version of themselves and make SIU their home away from home.

Williams said, having more new students not only helps SIU, but the entire Carbondale community as a whole. 

“Who knows one of the students enrolled this semester or may already be here, maybe making the next cure for cancer. They may be the first person to step foot on Mars. So the more students that we can get the better. […] Plus, with the budget cuts, it always comes at the state level and with the challenges with funding higher education,” Williams said.

He said, dealing with budget cuts is hard and they are always coming up with new ways to deal with them, but getting more students at SIU helps a lot to counteract those cuts. 

Elyse Weller, Interim Director of Financial Aid, said her office does its best to get students the financial aid they need and access to scholarships. She said she and her office do their best to keep up with President Biden’s student debt policies, and make sure that students are able to understand what that means financially for them.

Sam Bandy, Interim Director for the Center for International Education, said international students benefit from coming to SIU because they get to see and experience what it is like outside of their home country.

“If you’re from a city in China, a small city of 3 million you know, that’s what Carbondale is to them and so being able to be in an environment that has more of a park or a natural field is really important,” Bandy said. “At the same time for them to be able to participate in those clubs, meet new people and then really find themselves as well.”

He said the international program offers more than just making connections with other students, they figure out what they want for themselves and see other professional paths that are available to them. 

“I would say for international students once they get here and meet the students, the faculty and the staff that really makes their experience and so you get one student who has a fabulous experience and is similar with domestic students,” Bandy said

According to Bandy, when students get to tell their families and friends back home about SIU’s international program that helps the program get more students every year.

Ramesh Naupane, Associate Director for the Study Abroad Program said, study abroad has been around for years, and has been a great way for both domestic and international students to see different cultures and continue their education.

“SIU does a lot of exchange programs where a student will register a class at SIU, but we’ll take those courses abroad. So they will be graduating on time. So that’s how they [get their] academic experience and they will be learning in different higher education settings. So that’s a different knowledge that they’re going to gain over there,” Naupane said.

According to Naupane, study abroad has many opportunities for students like short and long run exchange programs and a variety of scholarships.  

He said, with more jobs wanting employees to be more experienced internationally, this is the perfect opportunity for students.

“This study abroad experience is going to help them to achieve that, to have that global mindset, because they are going abroad and learning about different cultures and people. So when you go into the workforce setting, then you have that experience working with different cultures,” Naupane said.

He said the program gives students a chance to learn about different cultures and how other countries’ norms are different from theirs.

Jim Hunsaker, the Associate Director of Housing, said, last year, because SIU had such an influx in first year students, it could no longer offer single rooms for every student this year, so first year students have a roommate by default.

“All of the towers are being used, all of the Wall and Grand apartments are being used. There’s been an expansion of the Evergreen Terrace, our undergraduate furnished apartments, and our grad and family apartments,” he said. 

Hunsaker said having new students come to SIU benefits current students in many ways. 

“I think that as enrollment increases, the student experience increases too, because everybody gets exposed to many different cultures and many different people that aren’t like them, and which is only going to benefit them in the future,” Hunsaker said.[…] “So when you get those interactions in college, it bleeds over into your professional career and the rest of your life.”

Staff reporter Janiyah Gaston can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @DEJaniyah. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois News follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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