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ISU enrollment rises on strength of big incoming class

Students sitting on grass on ISU Quad
Illinois State University

Illinois State University has its biggest incoming class in 35 years this fall. Jana Albrecht, the university's associate vice president for enrollment management, said the 3,983 freshmen bring total enrollment to 20,683 students.

That number includes 18,055 undergraduates and 2,628 graduate students.

"I hope we can have this number of freshmen each year. If we are going to have these incoming classes, we're going to have to focus on facilities space and course instruction and living space, but I think it's all doable. We just need to plan," said Albrecht.

The high number of entering students compensates for two barely average enrollment years during the two worst years of the pandemic. Albrecht said 2019 was a high number year for enrollment as well. Total enrollment rose about 2%.

“Illinois State continues its tradition of strong enrollment, increased diversity, and student achievement,” said president Terri Goss Kinzy. “We are already planning for next year’s class, and we are working to assure that as many qualified students as possible have access to the Redbird experience.”

Albrecht said the introduction of a Common Application, broadly used by the higher education sector, boosted the number of students seeking enrollment at ISU — thousands more applications than ever before. Indeed, ISU stopped taking student deposits in May. The university still admits about 80% of those who apply.

The number of students from under-represented groups also rose significantly, and that portion of the student body is now about 37% of this year’s freshman class and 29.9% of total enrollment.

"From last year to this year we are up 22% for Black and African American students. We are up 24% for Latino/Hispanic students from the prior year. But even our white students are up about 15%," said Albrecht.

Albrecht said the academic performance of the new students remained high.

“ACT is almost exactly the same at 24. GPA is up a little bit at 3.64 on a 4.0 scale. But I think what's most interesting is that we have about a thousand students in this class that bring a 4.0 or higher (GPA) this year. So, that's really good news," said Albrecht.

About half the applicants submit test scores under the common app. Albrecht said a better predictor of retention and academic achievement is grade point average, adding the incoming honors student group is the second largest ever — 440 students.

“This group of students is talented, civic minded, and driven, and I cannot wait to see the incredible things they do as part of our campus community over the next few years,” said Albrecht.

She said higher numbers of upper-tier students benefit the entire institution and the academic performance of other students, too.

“The students who have done well in high school are really the ones that are going to be very interested in doing well in college. And I think the more students that you have in the classroom that are like that, the more it spills over to the entire educational experience,” said Albrecht.

Almost a third of new students come from families with relatives who went to ISU, Albrecht said. New graduate students rose 18%. A third of the incoming class includes first-generation college students, and the international student population picked up after the pandemic slowdown and now amounts to about 3% of total enrollment.

Official enrollment figures were computed after the 10th day of classes.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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