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NIU reports 4.8 percent enrollment decline for fall 2018

Although fewer students are at NIU, they say they are pleased they chose it

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University’s enrollment continued its trend of decline this school year, with 10th-day enrollment down 4.8 percent from 2017, according to data released Tuesday by the university.

This year’s total enrollment came in at 17,169, with the number of on-campus undergrads down 660 students to 12,479 – a decline of 5 percent.

University officials had warned that they expected enrollment to be down again this year, as larger classes graduate and are replaced by underclassmen who enrolled in smaller numbers.

The declines at NIU are part of a trend among public universities statewide, many of which have seen enrollment shrink as a result of Illinois’ budget stalemate and financial woes, aggressive recruiting of students by institutions in other states, and fewer community college students in Illinois looking to transfer.

State and school officials say they are working to reverse the trend, but the numbers show there is work yet to be done.

Although there are fewer students on campus, many who have come say they are pleased with their choice.

Kimberly Sims, a 19-year-old sophomore from Sycamore, is among the many students who found NIU to be the best option.

“Ultimately the price kept me here, and I decided I don’t need to go too far away – I’ll always have time for that,” she said.

Sims said that while she considered options such as the University of Illinois at Chicago and Loyola, she ultimately decided to stay closer to home and consider other options later. Sims said she plans to become a cardiologist and would like to work in DeKalb County, if the opportunity is there.

Although the university saw a 3 percent increase in its freshman class a year ago, the 2018 number was essentially flat year-over-year. Total graduate student enrollment fell 4.6 percent to 4,121, the data show.

Transfers to NIU were down more than 8 percent year-over-year, from 1,716 in 2017 to 1,577 at the start of this school year.

Micki Ward, a 31-year-old senior from Belvidere, is an environmental studies major who first attended Rock Valley College.

Ward said she is pleased she chose to come to NIU.

“I love it here, and I can’t wait to get to work,” she said.

Growth among graduate and doctoral students was a bright spot this school year. The number of new master’s students were up 3.4 percent from 684 to 707, and new doctoral students were up more than 10 percent, from 103 to 114.

NIU’s Board of Trustees in fall of 2017 approved an agreement to offer out-of-state applicants reciprocity for this school year, meaning they could pay the same tuition as in-state students. Out-of-state students make up only a sliver of the total enrollment – about 4 percent in 2017.

The release says the university will increase scholarships and financial aid to up the ante as it works to recruit scholars.

The recently announced “Aim High” program is one such initiative. A partnership between Illinois state government and state universities will offer $50 million in scholarships for Illinois students who attend in-state colleges, with the schools and the state each contributing half the cost.

“With opportunities like the state’s Aim High grant program and the NIU Foundation’s robust scholarship campaign, NIU intends to deploy more merit- and need-based aid to transfer students in the future,” NIU President Lisa Freeman said.


Year Enrollment pct. change 2018 17,169  -4.8 2017 18,042 -5.1 2016 19,015 -5.5 2015 20,130 -2.3 2014 20,611 -2.5 2013 21,138 -3.3 2012 21,869 -2.0  2011 22,990 -3.6 2010 23,850 -2.4  2009 24,424    unch. 2008 24,397 -3.4

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