CHARLESTON — This fall marks a first in a decade for Eastern Illinois University: Enrollment numbers are up from the previous year.
According to newly released 10th-day numbers, the nationally accepted standard for tracking university and college enrollments, 7,526 students are enrolled at EIU this fall, an increase of 7.1 percent from last fall.
Undergraduate student totals are up from 5,568 last year to 6,012 students, and graduate numbers slightly up from 1,462 last year to 1,514 students.
The freshman class has seen some of the biggest strides. EIU officials said fall-to-fall first-time freshmen enrollment has increased by 24.5 percent, an addition of 155 students. This number, more than others, plays a key role in equalizing the outbound to inbound student ratio at the university.
“Such a considerable increase to EIU’s freshmen enrollment speaks to EIU’s excellent reputation, as well as to the profound talent and collaboration of our entire EIU team in realizing this remarkable achievement,” EIU President David Glassman said in a statement on the 10th-day numbers.
The university president has set a goal for 9,000 students on campus since he took the position a few years ago. When he accepted the job in 2015, the university was taking a big hit, largely as a result of external forces like the state budget impasse.
“(The impasse) was an unprecedented situation, and one our state must never face again,” Glassman said.
Other areas that have seen an increase include the university's online, undergraduate transfer, graduate and dual-credit populations.
The overall increase was foreshadowed by last spring's enrollment numbers, which saw a 5-percent increase.
According to EIU officials, key factors that led to fall's enrollment jump include the inclusion of new dual-credit partnerships and academic majors for students to take part in. Six programs were recently added to Eastern’s fall 2018 curriculum.
Still, university leaders underscore the magnitude of its large freshmen class, noting its importance in equalizing a high annual number of outbound EIU graduates, as well as a smaller pool of college-bound Illinois high school seniors.
EIU student Veer Mehta said he is excited for the shift in enrollment. He said more students open up more social avenues for other students.
"That is one of the problems kids (have when they) come here," he said. "It is affordable, but they think it lacks a social aspect that a university should have. So, it is just getting towards more of what kids want."
"It is good for Charleston. It is good for the school. It is good for the students," Mehta said.
The announcement Tuesday came the same day Southern Illinois University Carbondale reported an 11.9 percent decline to 12,817 students, the biggest enrollment dip in at least 15 years.