CHARLESTON -- This fall marks a first in a decade for Eastern Illinois University: Enrollment numbers are up from the previous year.
Tenth day enrollment numbers, the nationally accepted standard for tracking university and college enrollments, are in. According to Eastern's fall report, 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. According to EIU officials, the university's 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. At the time he took the position, the university took 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.
Josh Norman, EIU associate vice president of Enrollment Management, indicated in a press release that the graduate enrollment is "at its highest point in eight years."
“These increases tell us our recruitment, enrollment, and year-to-year retention efforts are working extremely well,” Norman said in the release. “I just can’t offer enough praise to our stellar Admissions team."
This positive shift for the university has been represented among the floors of the residence halls on campus as well. Incoming students with less than 30 credit hours and who are 50 miles away from campus are required to live on campus for the first year. This fall, Mark Hudson, EIU Housing and Dining director, said 867 incoming freshman and transfer students have taken up residence in university housing.
This number does not reflect those in the university apartments.
This fall, 128 more freshman are in the residence halls than last year. Hudson noted this means more in the residence hall population for next year.
"Easter is a heavy residential campus and a majority of the people who live on campus are returners," he said. "The majority of people who are on campus are actually people who return to campus -- and of course having a larger freshman class gives us a larger pool to retain for the second year."
The overall increase was foreshadowed by last spring's enrollment numbers, which saw a 5-percent increase.
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.
Another EIU student, Chase Kramer, said improvements like these mean a lot, at least to him.
"I do care because it means that the school improves every year," Kramer said. "It seems to be doing a pretty good job so far."
A second-year student at this university, Kramer said he came to Eastern because of the services offered for those with learning disabilities.
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. Seven programs were recently added to Eastern’s fall 2018 curriculum: Construction Management, Digital Media, Engineering Technology, Neuroscience, Exercise Science, Sports Management, and Television and Video Production.
For Mehta, the academic program in education drew him to Eastern, and he thinks that is the case for most on campus. Otherwise, cost likely plays a factor, he suspected.
Still, university leaders underscore the magnitude of the large freshman 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. Notably, EIU’s incoming freshman class was larger than EIU’s most recent graduating class.
Lowered standards did not play a factor in these numbers, though, officials noted. The university has consistently pushed back against lowering standards for more students.
Josh Reinhart, EIU Public Information Coordinator, said there were no changes to FA18 admissions standards. Reinhart noted EIU actually saw an overall increase in admitted students’ collective academic profile -- from ACT 21/GPA 3.06 to ACT 21/GPA 3.15.