A smaller dip in enrollment could show SIU heading in the right direction

Administration talks recruitment and retention.

By Brandi Courtois, News Editor

Enrollment is down but retention is up and administrators say they have plans to improve the numbers.

Enrollment by the Numbers

Overall, total enrollment is 11,695 students, down 8.75% from fall 2018 when it was 12,817. 


In a blog post by SIUC Interim Chancellor John Dunn, he said the university is heading in the right direction.

“We’ve been up front for several months now sharing with people that we anticipated [enrollment] being down,” Dunn said. “Primarily related to the large graduation class not only in May but also in December.”

The spring graduating class was nearly 2,600 students, Dunn said.

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Enrollment by 2025 could be closer to 15,000, Dunn said. The former chancellor, Carlo Montemagno, had established a goal of 18,300 enrolled by the same year.

(See more: Montemagno: ‘18,300 by 2025,’ SIUC sees nearly 12 percent enrollment drop during Fall 2018 semester)

While enrollment of first time students is down, it has significantly decreased over the last few years, Dunn said.

“Transfer and graduate enrollment was essentially flat,” Dunn said. “Very good news that we haven’t lost any ground there.” 


The total graduate change was down less than 1%, from 2,709 students in fall 2018 to 2,683 in fall 2019.

New freshman and transfer students represent 42 states and 20 countries, according to a release from SIU. 8% of students are international, according to the release.

“We have another challenge here, we’ve always seen ourselves as an international university, we saw a decrease in international students this year,” Dunn said. “It’s much more challenging for many in the world to get access to the United States, much less Carbondale.”

Interim Chancellor John Dunn addresses questions from the press concerning SIU’s enrollment on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in the Balcony Conference Room in Anthony Hall.

International enrollment decreased by 13.9%, Dunn said. He said some of that is out of the university’s control, but they are working diligently on international recruitment.


Jennifer DeHaemers, associate chancellor for enrollment management, said the best recruiting tool they have is getting prospective students on campus to show them what the university is about. 

When recruiting for fall 2020 DeHaemers said they’ll continue to get the word about SIU out by inviting more high school counselors, community college advisors and bringing students and families to campus.

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Two staff positions will be added in Chicago and St. Louis as regional recruiters, DeHaemers said.

“Those staff will be situated there and recruiting for us in those key markets,” DeHaemers said. “And, that doesn’t mean that we are no longer paying attention to southern Illinois.”

There will be the same number of employees in the office, DeHaemers said. They’ll just be deployed differently.

(See more: New associate chancellor for enrollment management: ‘While there are challenges, I don’t see them as insurmountable)

The university is investing in technology that can be useful to reach students, DeHaemers said. She said this generation of college students want things personalized, and they want it now.

“Back in February we had a really large campaign to get really involved and call students that had been admitted,” DeHaemers said. “The students that were able to be reached, we have some data that showed that the students were 8% more likely to enroll here after receiving that phone call.”

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Some of the new tools are the custom viewbook perspective students can access from SIU’s main website and a new transfer portal expected to launch in March, DeHaemers said.

“It’s not about the institutions, it’s about the students,” Dunn said. “We need to go back to our basic roots. No one is too important or too big not to have time to interact with students.”

Dunn said the university needs to figure out the pathway to help students access their dreams.

“Many parents have given up on their public universities in this state, and we’ve got to get that back,” Dunn said.



One of the first goals to boost enrollment was retention and recruiting freshmen, Dunn said. He said he wants students to feel good about their experiences and stay.

“Enrollment is as much about retaining students as it is about attracting new students,” Dunn said in a press release. “We are working hard at both.”

Retention in the freshman to sophomore class was 67% in fall 2017. In fall 2018 the number went up to 71% and in fall 2019 the number was up to 75%.

“This is news to celebrate,” Dunn said in a blog post.

There has been an increase in the sophomore to junior retention rate, Dunn said, which continues a pattern and is a desirable line.

“I think the word is out that people need to roll up their sleeves to make sure students feel they’re being served well here,” Dunn said. “That it is their university, and it is our responsibility to make sure we’re conscious of that every single day.”

It’s not just the freshmen they’re focused on retaining,  Meera Komarraju, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said.

Komarraju said she wanted to emphasize that all faculty, staff and graduate students are aware of the university’s focus on success.

“We want to not only bring them, we want to retain them,” Komarraju said. “And then we want to make sure that their next step is very successful.”

Gov. JB Pritzker released a statement about enrollment numbers at SIUC on Sept. 4.

“For too many years, the state failed to invest in our colleges and universities, delivering a clear message that Illinois’ best and brightest should go elsewhere,” Pritzker said.

The historic Rebuild Illinois capital plan dedicates over $139 million to capital improvements at SIU’s Carbondale campus and nearly 7,000 more students will receive need-based scholarships, the statement said.

News Editor Brandi Courtois can be reached at [email protected] on Twitter at @Brandi_Courtois.

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