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ISU Enrollment Drops 2% For Fall Term

Ralph Weisheit
ISU officials said the fall 2021 enrollment numbers are strong.

Illinois State University's enrollment dropped 2% from last year to the current fall term. But there are some encouraging signs.

ISU data taken from the usual benchmark of the 10th day of classes shows first-time college freshmen enrollment rose by about 1%. And transfer student arrivals rose by 6%.

ISU Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Jana Albrecht said total enrollment is 20,233 students, and that's not too bad all things considered.

"Given that we did our recruiting mostly virtually we can expect not to have had a bigger class," said Albrecht.

“Students are eager to be back on campus. We believe our strong Fall 2021 enrollment numbers reflect the support we have received from students and their families as we have moved forward with our approach to the fall term. The continued robust enrollment shows the confidence people have in Illinois State,” said ISU President Terri Goss Kinzy.

The university’s total student population includes 17,674 undergraduates and 2,559 graduate students. Though freshman enrollment actually rose, Albrecht said the drop came in other student categories.

"Our graduate students were having some issue with our international students in being able to get the appropriate paperwork. So, we've seen a lot of those students defer until the spring term. We believe we could get another group that are new to ISU in the spring and potentially more than we have had before," she said.

Another category that saw a decline is part-time graduate students who take maybe one course at a time. Albrecht said that tends to be a lot of teachers doing continuing ed or taking the slow road to an upper-level degree.

"We think that they are probably taking a little time off and that we'll probably get those graduate students back as well," said Albrecht, adding the student body is becoming more diverse.

"Thirty-five percent of the incoming freshman class comes from racially diverse backgrounds. If you were to look at our statistics as early as 2012-2013, we were probably at about 15%," said Albrecht. The freshman diversity figure also compares favorably to the 28% of the total student body that comes from underrepresented groups.

Illinois State University enrollment for Fall 2021:

  • Total: 20,233
  • Freshmen: 3,373
  • Transfer students: 1,778
  • Undergraduate students: 17,674
  • Graduate students: 2,559
  • International students: 557

The 2% enrollment decline this year is on top of a 1% drop at the height of the pandemic as most colleges and universities went virtual. The year before that, enrollment was up about a point. ISU enrollment has dropped by 806 students since 2016. ISU is down 645 students since the 2019 pre-pandemic year.

It is still in the range of 20,000 to 21,000 the university has for many years considered the institution is built to serve. Albrecht said over time there is generally slight fluctuation within those bounds.

Albrecht also said a slight increase in the high school grade point average for incoming freshmen argues well for student retention. She said that number looks like it will be 83-84%, noting several years ago retention of students was about 78%.

Editor's Note: This story has been changed to correct the reduction in students from 2016 to now.

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