State Schools See a Drop in Enrollment

The state of Illinois has seen a drop in college enrollment, including Western Illinois University.

“If you look back over time, they do increase and decrease. You know, there’s ups and downs and sometimes it’s hard to answer those questions as to why,” says Rhonda Kline, Director of Institutional Research.

While everyone is looking for a specific reason, the numbers are pretty clear. WIU’s full time enrollment dropped 9.7% from 2005 to 2012. But they aren’t alone. Eastern Illinois University and northern Illinois University saw a decline in students, also. But SIUC’s percentage was the highest, at 11.74%.

Arguably one of the main factors in the enrollment decline is the tuition vs. financial aid clash. For a long time, financial aid outweighed the cost of tuition, but now, the tables have turned.

“Last year it was about a $500 gap they had to make up, this year it is about $2,000. That goes from, ‘I can’t buy my books’ to, ‘I can’t stay in school,” says Andy Burst, Director of Admissions.

WIU is trying to combat the loss by adding new scholarships for incoming students, analyzing which regions they need to recruit in, and advertising the quality of the academic departments we have here in the west.

“We’re struggling; we know that we’re facing challenges. But we are acknowledging those challenges and focusing initiatives to address those challenges. I feel like we’re on an upswing.”

VIDEO: State Schools See a Drop in Enrollment