NIU sees enrollment decrease

By Drew Veskauf

For the second year in a row, NIU has seen a decrease in enrollment.

NIU’s 10th day enrollment numbers, which indicates the number of students enrolled each fall, reports the total number of students at 22,990, a decrease of 680 students from last year. This is the lowest enrollment the university has seen since 1999.

This number represents a decrease in NIU’s target enrollment of 23,768 students by 778.

This drop in enrollment is not the result of a single cause, said Brad Hoey, team leader of NIU Media Relations; many factors come into play when students decide which school to attend after high school.

“The numbers we are seeing are not a great surprise,” Hoey said.

High school graduate numbers in Illinois peaked in 2009 and have been decreasing since. It’s expected to decrease until 2014 to 2015, Hoey said.

“Competition for students is particularly intense in northern Illinois,” said Brian Hemphill, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, in an email. “Chicagoland is a robust recruitment territory.”

Federal student loans are on the decrease as well, Hoey said; state appropriated funding for NIU is now at the same level it was in 1999.

“A lot of students rely on [government funding],” Hoey said.

Because of this, state universities are forced to be more reliant on their own income rather than state monies, Hoey said.

“The university has to be more reliant on other things,” said Hoey. “It doesn’t look like things are going to get better.”

Even with the recent decrease in student enrollment, NIU President John Peters has made clear his intention to increase enrollment to 30,000 by 2020 as part of his Vision 2020 initiative.

New freshmen, transfers, law students and graduate students all decreased this year by about 10 percent in all categories. The largest total student decrease was the graduate department with a loss of 9.4 percent, or 329 students, from last year.

Peters plans to double incoming freshmen who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class and increase the number of freshmen who graduated in the top 25 percent of their class by 40 percent.

“As a university where the success of our students is paramount, we also must improve upon our student recruitment and retention outcomes,” Peters said in the Sept. 1 address.

These goals will help increase student enrollment and also increase the merit of education received at NIU, Hoey said.

While NIU reports a decrease in enrollment, University of Illinois-Champaign and Illinois State University reported that their enrollment for 2011 has increased.

U of I reports record enrollment this year with a total of 42,606 students.

Still, NIU is not the only university facing difficulty with enrollment this year, Hemphill said.

“While we cannot speak specifically to the practices of other institutions, the vast majority of public research universities in Illinois have projected enrollment declines this year,” Hemphill said.

Eastern Illinois University’s fall enrollment was down almost 4 percent and Western Illinois University saw a decrease despite having a record number of new freshmen. Southern Illinois University’s enrollment in Carbondale dipped by just over 1 percent.


Fall Enrollment Numbers for the last 5 years


2006 – 25,439 20,261 41,180 12,349

2007 – 25,372 20,104 40,923 12,179

2008 – 24,260 20,450 41,495 12,040

2009 – 24,313 20,856 41,918 11,966

2010 – 23,670 20,762 41,949 11,630

2011 – 22,990 21,080 42,606 11,178