Fall enrollment down 8.96 percent, university officials say


Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz

Newly appointed Southern Illinois University chancellor Carlo Montemagno speaks about shared governance at the university Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Anthony Hall. “Shared governance is power – it provides the ability for access,” Montemagno said. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Marnie Leonard

Fall enrollment at SIUC in 2017 is down by 8.96 percent from 2016, according to data released by university officials Tuesday.

The university’s 10-day enrollment figures indicate that fewer than 15,000 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degree programs, continuing the downward trend SIU has been experiencing for years.

Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said during a press conference Tuesday that these numbers were not a surprise to the administration.


“Our model indicated it was very, very close to this number,” Montemagno said. “We are working hard to redefine the institution to make it attractive and a destination of choice.”

The largest decrease was in the freshman class, which has 408 fewer students than in 2016.  The sophomore class saw 329 fewer students, a 15 percent drop, and the junior class went down by 336 students, a nearly 12 percent decline.

Every class saw decreases except the graduate med-prep students, which went from 44 students in 2016 to 47 students this year.

Total campus enrollment is 14,554, a drop of 1,433 from 2016. On-campus enrollment is at 12,408, which is a down 1,390 from 2016.

According to university data, just under 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students were enrolled during Fall 2016.

SIU has not seen an increase in students since 2014 when it saw an enrollment uptick of 0.1 percent, and it has only seen one other overall increase — also below one percent — in the past 14 years.

Montemagno said a variety of factors contributed to the drop, including the two-year state budget impasse that ended in July.


However, other public state universities seem to have fared well despite the state’s financial problems. Illinois State University and the University of Illinois system have both reported record-high freshman enrollments this year.

“The state budget is one example, but it doesn’t tell the whole story by any stretch of the imagination,” Montemagno said. “The whole story is that we at SIU Carbondale have to re-envision ourselves as a university.”

He said the university needs to reestablish its programs, which he added doesn’t just mean making cuts.

“You’re going to see a significant change,” Montemagno said. “The change will be a reallocation of resources … Some programs will go away, some programs will have resources added to them and there will be new programs that will be established.”

Montemagno said despite the drop in students, the “quality” has gone up, with average ACT scores for incoming freshman up to 22.82 from two years ago, when the average score was 22.17.

The university has not seen a decline in its transfer student population, which Montemagno said indicates the university has maintained a good reputation.

“Students who are knowledgeable are getting the message that this is the place they want to come and complete their studies,” he said. “It also indicates that we need to do a better job at indicating what is great about the institution to new incoming freshman.”

It will take time to get the student population back up, Montemagno said.

“We operate with a product life cycle, if you want to call it that, of four years — it takes four years between the freshman that come in next year and when they graduate,” he said. “As we advance the institution forward, initially you’re not going to see very much change and then you’ll see very rapid acceleration of the impact of that change.”

Last week, Montemagno sent a “vision survey” to students, faculty and staff to get input and gauge where the campus community hopes SIU will be in eight years.

So far, Montemagno said about 3,000 responses have come in. One question asked what members of campus believe attracts and retains students at the university.

Though the survey doesn’t end until Sept. 8, Montemagno said preliminary results have been consistent.

“The mission, our identity of being a flagship institution that values research, values inclusion, values a high-quality educational experience, has been reaffirmed overwhelmingly by all the respondents,” Montemagno said.

Montemagno said re-structuring the university will include reflecting on how big SIU needs to be to deliver the experience students want, a process he called “right-sizing.”

“There’s a connotation of right-sizing as a code word for doing cuts,” Montemagno said. “That is not what the intention is … There’s a reason why Princeton is the size it is. It’s a very small institution. They could easily quadruple the size without even batting an eye, but they have a size which is consistent with … the educational experience that defines Princeton. We need to define the size of the institution we have in order to define an SIU education.”  

Communication and marketing will be the keys to increasing enrollment, Montemagno said.

“I am totally optimistic that we are going to advance the institution and that we are going to re-establish our place as one of the preeminent institutions in the state,” Montemagno said. “It’s an extraordinary institution and I don’t think we have communicated it very well.”  

Staff writer Cory Ray contributed reporting.

Campus editor Marnie Leonard can be reached at mleonard@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

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