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IWU enrollment rises, with 16% increase in first-year students

Illinois Wesleyan University Ames Library
Ralph Weisheit
WGLT file
Illinois Wesleyan University Ames Library

Illinois Wesleyan University saw a 16% increase in first-year students to start the 2023-24 school year — the largest entering class in five years.

Kasey Evans, associate vice president for enrollment, also said total enrollment rose 3% — to 1,526 students — and follows a sharp drop last year. As recently as 2018, IWU enrollment was close to 1,700.

“Over a longer-term scale, we're definitely seeing things moving in a positive direction, and everything indicates that will continue. A lot of that is what we hear from students, once they're here,” said Evans.

In the past, IWU officials have said they need to have about 2,000 students enrolled for institutional stability. Evans said not anymore.

"At this time in our history, we are not super-specific on what a set target is. I think it's more about who is the right fit student at the right time. And are we filling the programs that we have here and making sure we are supporting the offerings that we have," she said.

Evans noted Illinois Wesleyan introduced several programs in health care and business last spring, and enrollments in those areas will be rising.

The number of international students saw a bump, too.

"We have been excited by that," she said. "I think some of the countries where we are getting interest are new-ish to us. And a lot of that is word of mouth. That tells me the students here are happy and are valuing the experience they are having here. So, they want to tell their friends back home."

Total enrollment by students of color has dropped in each of the last two years, though Evans said it rose in the new freshman class. She said IWU has a number of partnerships and platforms designed to help attract students from underserved groups.

“Especially successful would be our partnership with Chicago scholars. We're gonna go there in a few weeks to their on-site program to work with the students within their organization. That's been a group we're really excited about,” said Evans.

51 first-year students are from McLean County.

Illinois State University and Heartland Community College enrollment also rose this autumn, though HCC had incremental gains.

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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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