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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Decreasing graduate enrollment negatively impacts NIU

The Holmes Student Center stands beyond the Balance of Equality statue on a chilly winter day in MLK Commons. The 4.2% decrease in graduate enrollment between spring 2023 and spring 2024 is negatively impactful. (Northern Star File Photo)

NIU has historically focused on retaining and recruiting undergraduate students. While focusing on undergraduate retention and recruitment is important, graduate students remain vital to NIU’s campus and community.

Students continually worry about their undergraduate degrees and stress over the best programs, Greek life and student organizations. What’s less focused on is graduate school. 

NIU offers a variety of graduate programs; however, their students remain largely unsung. 

NIU consists of undergraduate, law and graduate students, and the enrollments of each student type are important to university success and growth. Compared to past years, NIU experienced a general enrollment year overall.

“As is typical across at many universities, NIU’s overall enrollment dips from fall to spring, typically by about 8%, according to the university’s historical averages,” said Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Laurie Elish-Piper in a statement to the Northern Star. 

Graduate students, unlike both other student types, decreased between the spring 2023 semester and spring 2024 semester.

New graduate student enrollment decreased by 5% from the spring 2023 semester to the spring 2024 semester, according to the Northern Star. Enrollment, ideally, should increase or remain stagnant to promote or sustain university growth – it most definitely shouldn’t decrease.  

In other aspects, including law and undergraduate students, enrollment increased, according to a statement released to the Northern Star. So, NIU’s strategies to recruit and retain students work, at least in part. 

In 2022, graduate enrollment decreased nationally by 4.7%, according to Inside Higher Ed. As schools rebuild from the collegiate challenges of COVID-19, graduate students are just as important as undergraduates.  

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, collegiate enrollment decreased as a whole. NIU has worked to build undergraduate enrollment back to healthier numbers. Despite this change in undergraduates, NIU has not experienced the same with graduate students. 

Total graduate enrollment decreased 4.2% between the spring 2023 and spring 2024 semesters, according to a statement released to the Northern Star.  The amount of new graduate students, however, decreased by 5%, according to the Northern Star.

Graduate programs generally have lower enrollment, but should still experience growth and expand. 

Graduate student recruitment and retention matters just as much as undergraduate and law. 

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