Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Jacqueline Crain is hit with a cloud of color after she crosses the finish line first at the third annual Color Fun Run hosted by the School of Health Sciences Sept. 29, 2023 at the Campus Lake in Carbondale, Illinois.
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Record freshman classes helping fuel SIU’s growth

Rusty Bailey, SIUC Media & Commu
Campus Fall

2023-24 is a year of historic growth for SIU Carbondale’s enrollment. SIU grew across the board, according to a news release by SIU Director of Communications Kim Renfeld.

The overall enrollment at the university stands at 11,359 students and represents a 2.3% increase over the 2022-23 academic year.  The group that saw the largest increase was new transfer students, which increased nearly 11% up to 1,188.

The freshman class, with 1,621 people, is nearly 7% larger than the previous academic years; in 2022, 1,486 new freshmen enrolled.  The increase continues a now four-year trend of growing freshmen classes.


Pete Lucas, the associate director of University Communications and Marketing at SIU, said, “What you’re seeing is a very, very nice turnaround.  I’ve been here in some form or another for 17 years, so it’s exciting to see us grow.”

Getting all of these new students on campus isn’t easy though; employees like Lucas and dozens of others in offices spread throughout campus put in hundreds of hours to sell SIU as the place where students want to be.

According to Cordaro Thomas, the recruitment and retention coordinator for the College of Arts and Media,  there are many different strategies used in recruiting students.  CAM’s plan includes 10, such as creating outreach activities for high school and even elementary students and building relationships with recruits.

Thomas said it comes down to, “making sure that we’re known everywhere, because we have an amazing program.  We have amazing things to offer within our schools as well, and so we want students to know that.”

Thomas puts a specific focus on getting prospective students to visit campus and letting them see SIU personally.

“I think that our number one job is getting students to campus. Once we get students to campus, our tours and the equipment and the characteristics of the staff, they speak for themselves,” Thomas said. “So when students see the things that we have to offer… they’re wowed by knowing that they’re coming right into it.”

Lucas, who mainly deals in marketing and advertising for the entire university, thinks the increases in attendance can be partially traced to a change in how SIU marketed itself.


“We really shifted our focus from not only just advertising the university, but advertising at a program level,” Lucas said.

That means showing students SIU has something relevant to them.

“If I know you’re interested in accounting, let’s just start talking about accounting,” Harmon said.

Another strategy is making it easier for students to get information without being flooded or overwhelmed with information

“The goal is really to provide the student with more information earlier… I know that students are gonna be bombarded.  The goal is really to try to become relevant to what that is,” Harmon said.

University administrators are among those most thrilled by the increase in enrollment.

Associate Vice Chancellor Wendell Williams said, “We’re excited about the opportunity to grow at a strategic pace.  We are excited about the opportunity to work with the community and work with other areas… We’re excited that a lot of things are finally coming together.”

SIU Chancellor Austin A. Lane said in a press release, “This is a moment for all Salukis to celebrate.  Over the last three years, our faculty, staff, students, alumni and donors set out to strategically increase our enrollment in a number of key ways.”

He said that work has paid off and there’s more to come.

“I want to personally thank everyone in Saluki Nation for everything they did to set us on the right trajectory,”  Lane said. “[The] exciting news proves Salukis imagine ambitious goals, and then we make them reality,” Lane said.

Recruiting is one thing, but keeping these large classes and their members at SIU is also a priority for administrators.  Lucas thinks that students themselves play a big part in convincing their peers to stay.

“Our retention numbers are some of the best we’ve had in years… when you get a group of students who come in together and kind of go through the process together, you have that community, and that helps in retention.,” Lucas said.

Individual colleges also do their part to keep students coming back.

Thomas said, “Having things for our students to stay engaged and stay excited, to have the Saluki spirit and to be proud of the college that they are attending, that’s vital for us.”

And while administrators certainly think the enrollment increases are a positive, Lucas thinks that everyone around SIU should too.

Lucas said, “When you bring in more students… you bring in a bigger student base, you bring in more student programming, more student affairs.  It gives people the opportunity to be part of a larger community.”


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