CHARLESTON -- Eastern Illinois University is seeing shockingly high early admissions numbers for next fall only a few months into the current semester.

Across the board, applications and admits are up from this time last year by a significant margin, Josh Norman, associate vice president for enrollment management, said.

“For as long as I can remember, I haven't seen a start with these stark of differences in the different enrollment indicators,” Norman said.

According to Wednesday admissions numbers, admitted freshman are up by 385, a 79 percent increase at this time last year. Norman said Eastern has not seen these numbers in a decade.

Admitted transfers are up 73 percent. Graduate applications are up 187 percent. And, international undergraduate applications are up 180 percent and international graduate applications are up 225 percent.

“The processing office can't even keep up with the number of apps coming in,” he said.

EIU President David Glassman sees it as a turning point for Eastern and these numbers are a testament to that.

“We are truly engaged in trying to turn this corner and bring EIU more students,” he said at a recent Faculty Senate meeting.

Josh Norman said these numbers cannot be attributed to one catalyst, though, such as the budget impasse that plagued higher education in the state for two years.

“(The impasse) has got to be playing some role in all of this,” he said. “(But), I think it is a minor role. I think the major role is the active efforts of the faculty, staff and even current students.”

The budget impasse did change the morale on campus, which might have reignited campus efforts on the enrollment front.

“The campus can feel that positive momentum,” Norman said. “That just goes such a long way when it comes to their willingness to take part in the greater effort for the enrollment.”

However positive the numbers are, they do not represent the actual amount of students expected to be at Eastern come August 2018. Applications and admitted students serve as early indicators. Only student deposits truly depict a complete picture of the campus student size.

Deposits are going up as well, though. Norman noted that freshman tuition deposits are up by 75 percent, which is surprising this early in the year.

“I am cautiously optimistic because it is early, but the numbers, to me, are staggering,” Norman said.

The campus community saw a more visual representation of these numbers at a Monday open house, where 81 more prospective students attended than at their open house this time last year.

The Dvorak Concert Hall was standing room only for the opening session, which was a first in several years, Norman noted.

Total fall 2017 student enrollment is down by approximately 5 percent, but this is EIU's lowest fall-to-fall headcount decline in six years.

Norman said the goal is to go flat next year, which will be challenging as they attempt to overcome the large senior class bubble that will leave at the end of the school year.

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Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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