SPRINGFIELD — Fall semester enrollment at the University of Illinois Springfield fell by 6.6 percent compared to last year, even as enrollment across the University of Illinois system reached record levels.
After the first 10 days of classes, the total number of students enrolled in fall classes at UIS stands at 4,275 compared to 4,575 students in fall 2018. It is the third consecutive year of enrollment declines at the Springfield campus and is its lowest headcount since 2001, when the university admitted its first-ever freshman class.
According to the university, a dip in the part-time student population is entirely responsible for the overall drop, with the population of full-time students (2,369) remaining unchanged.
There were some silver linings, however. Most notably, the university admitted its largest freshman class ever with 373 first-year students compared to 316 last year. This helped fuel an 8 percent increase in the number of students living on campus, which now totals 1,038 and brings campus occupancy rate to 93 percent.
"We are pleased to see the substantial increase in the size of our freshman class again this year," UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said in a statement. "It affirms that an increasing number of prospective students and their families are choosing UIS for a student-centered undergrad experience — an experience that provides uniquely personalized educational opportunities that prepare our graduates for success in their careers and their communities."
UIS was the only U of I campus to lose enrollment. The Chicago campus was up 5.4 percent from 31,683 last fall to 33,390, the fifth-straight year of enrollment increases. Much of this growth was fueled by enrollment at the John Marshall Law School, which merged with UIC last year to create Chicago's first public law school.
At the flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign, enrollment increased 3.8 percent from 49,339 last fall to 51,196, marking the first time the university has topped 50,000 students and its ninth consecutive fall enrollment increase.
Overall, enrollment in the University of Illinois system increased 3.8 percent, from 85,597 a year ago to 88,861.
University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen attributed the system's sustained growth to continued academic excellence and ongoing efforts to maintain affordability. Tuition for in-state freshman has been frozen the past five years.
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"Students are at the center of everything we do and we are committed to opening our doors wider, providing opportunities that will transform more lives and expand the pipeline of world-class talent that drives progress for our state and nation," Killeen said.
The University of Illinois system hopes to top 93,600 students by the fall 2021.
Ten-day enrollment numbers at the state's other public universities were a mixed bag, with years-long enrollment declines continuing at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Western Illinois University in Macomb and Southern Illinois University's Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses, while slight enrollment upticks were reported at Illinois State University in Normal and Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
Koch said UIS has been "focusing intently on the recruitment of undergraduate students and we're seeing that that's paying off now."
Some factors Koch cited were the university's affordability, projects like the UIS Student Union adding to the vibrancy of campus life and "the opportunity to earn a U of I degree in a personalized environment."
Koch said the overall drop in headcount was "a concern," but was pleased that the number of full-time students stabilized. She added that the university will work to increase enrollment in graduate programs that have been hurt by a decline in the international student population.
"I don't expect that the international graduate school population will grow back to what it was at its peak about three years ago," Koch said. "But another area of opportunity for us is to emphasize more in a stronger way to our local community that a graduate degree is a very important aspect for advancement in many careers."
The university also saw a slight increase in the percentage of students who are Illinois residents, which is up to about 77 percent overall and to more than 90 percent among the freshman class.