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NIU, Kishwaukee College enrollment numbers down

Published: Monday, Feb. 8, 2016 10:59 p.m. CDT
(Daily Chronicle file photo)
Students wait in line to buy food in 2015 at a concession stand at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center.

DeKALB – Fewer students enrolled this semester compared with spring 2015 at Kishwaukee College and Northern Illinois University, which adds to the trend of enrollment at the colleges spiraling down.

For the first time in at least four years, spring enrollment at NIU didn’t surpass 19,000. In fall 2012, the school recorded 21,869 undergraduates. That number is down to 18,519 this spring.

“The percentage change from fall to spring this year is almost identical to that of the last few years, so there are no real surprises,” NIU spokesman Joe King said.

Higher education officials say the continuing trend of enrollment declines is being fueled by factors including the complete lack of funding from the State of Illinois, as well as more aggressive recruiting of Illinois students by out-of-state schools.

Spring enrollment at NIU was more than 1,600 students less than it was in the fall, in part because of graduation, transfers and other factors, NIU officials said.

At Kishwaukee College there are 3,355 students enrolled this semester, down from the 3,686 who signed up for classes in spring 2015, said Kayte Hamel, a spokeswoman for the two-year college.

State budget angst and increased tuition and fees have beset most of the state’s public universities. Schools such as NIU still don’t know how much general state aid they will receive for fiscal 2016, which is more than halfway over. Yet by crediting students’ accounts without any idea of when they would be reimbursed by the state, NIU and other state universities have borne the burden for students whose Monetary Award Program funds remain on hold in Springfield.

Further, robust recruitment by schools outside the state has led to students opting to leave Illinois to get their college degrees.

“We have many more students from Illinois who graduate from high school that make the decision to attend college out of state,” said Eric Weldy, NIU vice president for student affairs and enrollment management. “It’s definitely more competitive. There are more universities around the country that are recruiting in the Chicago area. We get most of our students, obviously, from the northern region of Illinois.”

Weldy added, however, that NIU is retaining more of its students.

“If you’re going to impact a decreased enrollment, one of the main things that has to occur is that you have to retain the students that you already have,” Weldy said. “That’s something that we have been doing, and definitely have been seeing improvement from year to year.”

The 790 new freshmen who started this semester was an increase of 33 over the 757 students who started at NIU in spring 2015. Also, the university picked up 531 transfer students when the semester started last month. That was 28 more students than transferred last spring semester.

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