Officials at Eastern Illinois University are happy that their institution is the university of choice for a record number of students. But they also realize that this record-breaking enrollment will pose challenges for the campus.
“This is the largest enrollment in the history of the university,” said EIU President Lou Hencken, referring to the record-breaking 12,129 students currently enrolled in on- and off-campus classes. “But it’s an enrollment that would be difficult to sustain without a significant increase in resources from the state.”
“Our students come to Eastern, in part, because we offer small classes and offer them the personal attention that they both want and need,” Hencken continued. “Provost (Blair) Lord and I are committed to continuing to offer that same quality education this year and in the future.”
The president acknowledged the university’s successful attempts to limit the number of freshmen for the Fall 2005 semester. That number actually did decrease from 2,617 a year ago to 2,505 – a reduction of 112 students.
More than 6 percent of entering freshmen did so through Eastern’s Honors College. Dean Bonnie Irwin, noting that the 158 students mark the college’s third-largest freshman class ever, attributed the success to “increased efforts by a multitude of people to raise awareness of Eastern’s Honors programs.” A total of 686 students are enrolled in the university’s Honors College.
Most other Fall 2005 enrollment figures also indicate increases. A breakdown of Eastern’s total student enrollment is as follows (with Fall 2004 figures in parentheses): undergraduate students, 10,375 (9,928) – freshmen, 2,505 (2,617); sophomores, 2,185 (2,176); juniors, 2,637 (2,320); and seniors, 3,048 (2,815). Graduate students number 1,745, an increase of 22 from last year’s 1,723.
The number of undergraduate transfer students rose from 1,009 in 2004 to this year’s figure of 1,148.
In addition, minorities represent more than 10.5 percent of Eastern’s total enrollment. As a whole, the number of minorities increased from 1,102 to 1,276. Those enrollments, broken down, are as follows: African-American, 848 (724); Hispanic, 272 (241); Asian, 129 (114); and American Indian, 27 (23).
The number of international students attending EIU is down slightly, with 132 enrolled in Fall 2005. The number a year ago was 143.
Will Hine, dean of Eastern’s School of Continuing Education, expressed his pleasure at an increase of nearly 11 percent in the number of students enrolled in off-campus courses. “I believe this further illustrates the strong demand for off-campus programs by adult students and the trend for life-long learning,” he said.
Hencken said that in the months ahead, Eastern officials will continue to study the university’s enrollment and devise ways to effectively manage it. The challenge is currently compounded by the temporary loss of two of the university’s academic buildings – the Doudna Fine Arts Center, which is undergoing a nearly $50 million renovation/expansion, and Blair Hall, which was gutted by fire in April 2004. Renovation of the latter, which is to include additional classroom space, will be completed in Spring 2006.
Meanwhile, Hencken added, the university plans to move forward with six long-range goals introduced by Provost Lord and designed to further enhance the university’s appeal to current and future students: