ISU President Larry Dietz said he is pleased with the pace of student acceptances of admission during this early part of the college selection season.
This comes even though applications to ISU are down about 2% compared to this time last year. Dietz said he’s not concerned.
“The overall applications are down a tad for first time in college (students),” Dietz said. “That’s a bit unusual this time of year, but we’re not worried about that. Sometimes, it’s a processing issue. Admissions are tracking that, but the actual admissions and deposits are up.”
Dietz said the higher-than-average deposit rate signals ISU may be a first choice for more students this year.
Another important share of the enrollment pie is the category of transfer students either from community colleges or other four-year institutions. That has historically been strong for ISU compared to other Illinois public colleges and universities. But Dietz cautioned community college enrollment has trended downward for several years, implying it may become more difficult to maintain that share of the student body composition.
Gov. JB Pritzker last week asked the University of Illinois to expand free tuition for students who can least afford it.
“More than half of the households in this state will qualify for free tuition,” said Pritzker. “I asked them to lift the income threshold for the Illinois commitment program by an additional 10%, and they will institute this for the coming school year.”
Although the U of I and ISU often compete for different pools of students, said Dietz, this change still has the potential to affect enrollment at the institution in Normal. Dietz said ISU will respond.
“We’re looking right now at doing some simulations for this next year,” Dietz said. “We’ve already increased our institutional grant and scholarship program modestly this next year and our yield has been pretty good. So, I think we’re going be alright.”
Dietz said ISU would easily meet the governor’s goal for the U of I of 50% free tuition eligibility if state funding were more equitable. The president and other ISU leaders have emphasized for a couple years that ISU is being penalized for its success in retaining enrollment. The state has historically funded colleges and universities with lump sums and adjusted up or down depending on state finances. Dietz said as other institutions have had falling enrollment, the per student aid has increased for them and fallen for ISU.
Dietz has called on the legislature to institute a funding formula for colleges and universities much as the state uses for K-12 school districts.
He said if ISU were to receive the per student state support the U of I gets, ISU could easily boost financial aid to needy students.
After #AntiblackISU highlighted incidents of racism and microaggression on campus in September and challenged the university’s diversity efforts, Dietz promised a strong response.
The president said in a WGLT interview last week that work continues.
“We’ve done a lot of soul searching on that,” Dietz said. “We’ve continued to meet with our students. We have a meeting set up the first part of next month that’s going to be a part of a training session for students and administrators that I’m bringing to the table to go through training."
Dietz said the Academic Affairs area is hiring a professional to assist in recruiting more faculty and counselors from underrepresented backgrounds. He said the chief of police held a talk about police-involved incidents and when students are stopped. The director of housing has met with students for improved training on issues in student housing, said Dietz.
The timeline on a proposed $90 million to $110 million student housing project is now out to 2022. Dietz said he is in no rush.
“I’m not as concerned about when we open the thing as I am about what’s the price point, can students afford it, what’s it going to look like,” Dietz said. “We need to get closer on pour figures with the group that’s helping us build it.”
Other projects in progress around campus includes the renovation of Julian Hall to serve an expanded cybersecurity program and a new fine arts complex. Dietz said the funds for the new complex have not been released, though the governor has been making stops at a number of colleges and universities to tout funding through the state capital plan. Dietz said ISU is eager to host the governor to move the fine arts project forward after more about two decades of work to secure it.
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