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IWU Adds Diversity, More McLean County Students As Enrollment Grows 1%

Illinois Wesleyan entrance
Emily Bollinger
Illinois Wesleyan University said Tuesday the fall 2021 enrollment is 1,653, up 1% from last year.

Illinois Wesleyan University has welcomed its most diverse incoming class in school history.

The university released its fall enrollment totals on Tuesday, marking its official headcount at 1,653 students after 15 days of classes. That’s up about 1% from fall 2020 numbers.

IWU said 34% of new students self-identity as students of color.

“It’s very important to us that we are growing in our diversity and finding ways to connect with students that perhaps we haven’t in the past,” said Dean of Admissions Greg King. “(It was) a very intentional effort.”

King said the university relied more on regular mail delivery to recruit students during the pandemic, when many high school students were taking classes virtually last year.

“We hadn’t mailed some things in a number of years, we really went back to the basics to make sure we can connect well with students and families,” King said.

The incoming class of 473 students is smaller than 2020 (487), but King said the university had a smaller target this year after getting a larger-than expected incoming class last year.

The new class includes students from 15 countries, 25 states and Washington, D.C.

“We are delighted to welcome a robust and diverse incoming class to campus this fall,” said President Georgia Nugent. “Despite unprecedented challenges facing higher education, our recruitment and retention efforts continue to buck nationwide trends.”

At 66, the new class also includes a record number of students from McLean County. King attributed part of that increase to the scholarship guarantee IWU has offered to McLean County residents since 2018, but he said the pandemic may have caused more students to avoid going further away to college.

“It was definitely a year nationally where students wanted to stay a little closer to home with so much unknown in this world, (it) gave comfort to many,” King said.

Since IWU started to offer a $30,000 scholarship to high school seniors from McLean County, student enrollment from McLean County has nearly doubled.

IWU also said it added 40 transfer students, including five from Heartland Community College in Normal. The university forged a guaranteed admissions agreement with Heartland in March to allow for an easier transition for transferring students.

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