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IWU President: No Overreaction To Enrollment Drop

Charlie Schlenker
IWU President Eric Jensen projected confidence that the college will regain enrollment.

Fall enrollment for Illinois Wesleyan University is about 1,700 students, the lowest since 1988.

IWU President Eric Jensen said the private college in Bloomington will continue searching for ways to increase enrollment.

"The key is a careful, reasoned approach. And we don't need to resort to anything drastic in response to short-term fluctuations. We have a supportive board of trustees. We have a substantial endowment. And we're in the place we need to be," Jensen said on GLT's Sound Ideas.

Jensen said they are being more aggressive and have been looking outside of Illinois to recruit more students.

"1,900, 2,000, somewhere in there, that's a nice size. And so that means a reasoned, careful approach to enrollment to make sure we continue to get the students we want," said Jensen.

One cohort that fell sharply is international students, though the overall number is small compared to the total student body. Jensen said that may be an effect of the Trump administration's emphasis on immigration.

He said diversity at IWU continues to increase with growth in African-American, Latino and first-generation college students. Jensen said he wants to make sure the institution is still picking students who are going to benefit the most from Illinois Wesleyan.

There are several reasons for the decrease, including the two-year budget standoff in Illinois that damaged the state's reputation, and the overall decline in the number of graduating high school seniors nationwide, said Jensen.

Jensen said there are no plans to significantly change staff or infrastructure. He said the plan is to use normal attrition to deal with part of the loss in revenue that comes from the drop in enrollment.

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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.