Third year of consecutive growth sees significant jumps in freshman, local student enrollment
(Charleston, IL) – Against the backdrop of a re-imagined, safety-focused campus experience, Eastern Illinois University’s Fall 2020 enrollment numbers continue to steadily increase.
Overall, fall-to-fall enrollment jumped approximately 10.5 percent at EIU, according to the University’s 10th-day enrollment numbers. This marks the third consecutive year of growth in institutional enrollment. As expected, increases in continuing, dual-credit, freshman, and graduate students fueled Eastern’s ongoing increase. Larger incoming numbers continue to aid the university in replenishing what have been large, outbound graduating classes throughout the mid 2010s.
“The story this year’s numbers are telling us is pretty clear,” said Josh Norman, associate vice president for Enrollment Management at EIU. “EIU’s growth and enrollment momentum is still on a significant upward trajectory, despite some very unique circumstances. That speaks volumes about the quality and responsiveness of our EIU community to meet the dynamic needs of our students even in these challenging times.”
In addition to its general enrollment increase, EIU has seen an increase in its admission of high-achieving students, who have helped boost EIU’s incoming student profile for a third consecutive year as well. This includes overall increases to incoming freshman ACT, SAT, and GPA scores, and a considerable expansion to incoming freshman eligibility in EIU’s esteemed Sandra and Jack Pine Honors College.
“Each year, our incoming freshman class demonstrates its robust academic talent,” said Dr. Richard England, dean of the Honors College at EIU. “This fall, our freshman class saw a 68 percent increase in the number of students who are eligible to enroll in the Honors College. It’s an amazing accomplishment for those students and for EIU’s excellent academic reputation.”
Another metric Norman believes is indicative of EIU’s commitment is a 4.1 percent increase in new freshman within 60 miles of the University. He said a signature of Eastern’s ongoing marketing and branding efforts have included a more targeted focus on ensuring students and families throughout East Central Illinois remain aware of EIU’s quality, value, and affordability.
“The relationships we’ve built and maintain with our regional high schools and community partners are absolutely amazing,” Norman said. “More and more people continue to realize EIU has extensively outgrown its ‘hidden gem’ reputation—we’re recognized as a comprehensive, first-choice option for the best and brightest students across the Midwest. EIU continues to offer an extraordinary value with incredible outcomes, and remains the lowest-cost-of-attendance University in the state.”
Notably, EIU’s enrollment gains also have helped to offset what were anticipated declines in the University’s international student population. Norman shared that changing federal regulations limited international student populations from entering the U.S. to study, and those limitations were “unquestionably exacerbated” by the global pandemic. In time, Norman hopes, EIU will once again see significant increases to its international population, specifically noting the diversity and cultural value those students add to campus and to the broader Charleston community.
Despite an abrupt move to online learning last March, EIU also noted a slight increase in its Freshman retention rate—up about .5 percent. EIU’s transfer retention rate also jumped by 2.8 percent. Norman believes retention rates will continue to climb at EIU thanks to a new, 24-pronged student success approach intended to strategically enhance critical student support infrastructures throughout the academic year.
“At the end of the day, our campus community is committed to the success of our students and to the bright future of Eastern Illinois University,” Norman said. “In this season—more than any other—we all are doing our part to continually outdo ourselves in how we’re serving our students.”
Part of that service included the distribution of federal and state COVID assistance funds—packaged as the CARES Act—and putting it directly into the hands of EIU students to address their most immediate needs.
“At EIU, finances are the number one retention risk for our students,” Norman said. “The CARES Act has made an incredible impact on our students’ abilities to persist through these recent, challenging times, and on behalf of EIU and our students, I want to extend our sincerest thanks to the Governor’s Office and the State of Illinois for their support.”
Norman admits the adversity of this academic season still presents challenges. Still, he is confident of EIU’s ability to continue navigating an ever-fluctuating higher education landscape.
“The courage, pride and resolve of our dedicated faculty and staff at EIU continue to be the hallmark of the Eastern experience,” he said. “I am so proud of everything they’ve done to support our students and their families. It is because of their hard work that we are seeing such a significant enrollment increase for the third consecutive year.”
Dr. David Glassman, Eastern’s president, echoed Norman’s admiration for the work everyone at the university has done to support EIU’s reputation as a premier institution of higher education in the Midwest.
“EIU’s phenomenal reputation can be attributed to a variety of critical factors, but it truly is the tireless drive of our employees that supports the entire Eastern enterprise,” Glassman said. “Our identity relies on the relationships we build with our students and each other, and I couldn’t be prouder of everyone’s commitment to our students’ collective success.”
EIU’s fall 2020 figures come from the university’s 10th-day enrollment report. Tenth-day enrollment reports are the nationally accepted standard for tracking university and college enrollments every semester.
For more information about EIU, or to explore its growing assortment of programs and services, visit the university’s website at www.eiu.edu, or call EIU’s public information office at (217) 581-7400.