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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

University Council: Enrollment down, ‘painful’ budget changes

Altgeld+Hall+sits+under+a+cloudy+sky.+Enrollment+is+down+for+another+fall+semester.+%28Northern+Star+File+Photo%29
Northern Star File Photo
Altgeld Hall sits under a cloudy sky. Enrollment is down for another fall semester. (Northern Star File Photo)

DeKALB – NIU President Lisa Freeman has revealed some of the numbers from this year’s 10-day enrollment report and discussed plans for NIU’s multi-year budgeting.

On Wednesday during the first University Council meeting of the semester, Freeman said total enrollment numbers are down. Total enrollment for Fall 2023 came out to 15,504 students, which is a less than a 1% decrease from Fall 2022.

“We can say total enrollment is relatively flat,” Freeman said. “It actually exceeded the targeted enrollment minimum that we had in the university goals. We put in the university goals a range of enrollment that we were targeting, the bottom of that range was 15,360.”

The top of the range for target enrollment was 15,570 students. 

“When we are talking about our enrollment target range … as a starting point, if everything was the same as last year, this is what the number would be,” Freeman said in a Jan. 24 interview with the Northern Star.

Total first-year student enrollment came out to 2,202 students, which is a 238 student decrease since fall 2022.

Although first-year student enrollment is down, their highschool GPAs are high, Freeman said. NIU’s current first-years have met an average highschool GPA of 3.42, the second year in a row first-years have done so. Of this semester’s incoming first-years, 20% have highschool GPAs of 4.0 or higher, and 36% of them have a highschool GPA of 3.7 or higher.

Of the incoming students, 57% are first generation college students and over 70% are students of color, Freeman said. 

“They are economically, socially and racially diverse group of learners,” Freeman said.

Freeman said Hispanic students make up 25% of the total undergraduate population.

“It’s a significant achievement that places the institution on a trajectory to be fully designated as a Hispanic-serving institution,” Freeman said.

Retention of first time full-time students increased by over 5% from 65% in 2022 to over 70% in 2023.

NIU’S BUDGET CHANGES

In the meeting, Freeman also spoke about NIU’s plan for multi-year budgeting. 

“We’re here to serve students. We’re here to offer them transformative experiences, and part of our obligation is to make sure that we’re here for many generations and that means that we have to have budgets that work,” Freeman said.

Freeman said any budget changes won’t be pain free.

“We have run a misaligned deficit between revenues and expenses for a number of years. That number looks bigger when you consider everything we always have to do, and we don’t give ourselves the option to defer things and so as you could expect,” Freeman said. “Moving forward, getting things in alignment, reducing expenses, reallocating resources, growing revenue, that’s going to take work, and it’s work. That’s not going to be easy. They’re going to be things we do that are not pain free, or painful, depending on how you want to look at it.”

Freeman explained that these multi-year budgets need to be realistic to expected revenue, inclusive of university expenses, aligned for recurring resources and expenses, and eliminate unsustainable annual deficits. 

Freeman said the official 10-day enrollment number will be publicly available Thursday.

The next University Council meeting will be at 3 p.m. Oct. 11 at Altgeld Hall, Room 315.



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