Illinois Universities see decline in enrollment


By Jessica Sabbah

Since fall 2006, NIU has seen a decline in enrollment by about 5.8 percent.

Although NIU is not the only four-year Illinois public institution to suffer a dip in enrollment between fall 2006 and fall 2010, other schools have grown over the past four years.

NIU’s decrease in enrollment comes during a time when the number of high school seniors in 23 northern counties in Illinois has increased steadily over recent years and is projected to peak in 2011.

The Northern Star takes a closer look into enrollment at NIU, how the university compares to other universities and what factors affect enrollment.

This is the second installment of a three-part series.

TUESDAY: A look into graduation and retention rates at NIU


DeKALB | NIU tied for the second largest decline in enrollment among eight of Illinois public four-year universities between fall 2006 and fall 2010.

The four-year Illinois public universities included in the Northern Star’s look into enrollment were: Eastern Illinois University, Illinois State University, NIU, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Western Illinois University.

NIU saw a decrease of enrollment by about 5.8 percent or 1,463 students. EIU saw the same percentage decrease, losing 719 students.

Both universities follow WIU, which had the largest decline during that time period. WIU suffered about a 7.5 percent decline in enrollment over those four years, amounting to 1,017 fewer students.

Of the eight universities, five experienced declines in enrollment during those four years ranging from 1.8 to 7.5 percent. The other two institutions with declines are SIU-Carbondale and U of I.

While the majority of those universities saw fewer students between fall 2006 and fall 2010, three institutions saw increases in enrollment. Those universities include ISU, SIU-Edwardsville and UIC.

UIC had the greatest growth in enrollment during that four-year period, with about a 13 percent increase equaling 3,206 more students. SIU-Edwardsville saw about a 4.9 percent increase coming in second for the largest growth, amounting to 658 additional students. ISU ranked third with about a 3 percent jump and an increase of 613 students.



With 12 Illinois public universities and over 200 other higher education institutions to choose from, as well as thousands of out-of-state options, a student’s decision of where to spend the next four to five years of his or her life isn’t always easy.

Brian Hemphill, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, cited “stiff competition” in the region as one of the negative factors affecting NIU enrollment.

“Everything has changed from a competitive standpoint,” Hemphill said.

Raven Bohanon, junior at Belleville High School-West, is in the midst of her college search. Bohanon traveled with her father, Frank, over 275 miles northeast in order to attend NIU’s open house on April 22.

Raven and her father came to see what the university has to offer.

Raven plans to pursue a degree in nursing at whichever institution she chooses. At this point in her search, she said she is between NIU and ISU.

Raven became interested in NIU after her father, Frank, heard about NIU through friends and saw commercials about the university on TV. She also was interested in NIU because of the nursing program.

For Frank, the biggest factors in his daughter’s college search are mainly price and location.

“I like what I’ve seen [at NIU],” he said. “I’ll let her make the ultimate decision.”

Although Raven doesn’t have any hesitations about coming to NIU specifically, she said she is nervous about the classes she would be taking.

While Raven is looking forward to the beginning of her college experience, Shorewood resident Vanessa Mancilla is searching for an institution to take the next step in her higher education.

Mancilla attended NIU’s open house for a different reason: A place to transfer. The freshman at Joliet Junior College has begun to comb through possible schools to transfer to.

Mancilla is looking to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice; however, NIU does not have a criminal justice major.

“I like everything about it,” she said. “The only thing is the major.”

Mancilla said she likes how NIU’s campus is more modern and bigger than small colleges.

Mancilla is also considering WIU and Roosevelt University. Right now, she said her leading choice is WIU because it has a criminal justice program.

She said her biggest considerations in her college search are the cost, the program and the location.

Vanessa’s father, Ralph, brought her to the open house as a way for her to see what’s out there and plans on taking her to other open houses at other universities.

“I want her to get exposure to different schools, different programs and compare costs, too,” he said.