SIU Fall 2013 Enrollment: Is the downard spiral finally over?

SIU FanerAfter weeks of hearing reports of big freshman numbers this year at SIU, we were cautiously optimistic that this could finally be the year the streak of continuing lower enrollment numbers would break.

The Chancellor has been out touting strong numbers for new freshman so far this semester, and we’ve been hearing about dorms being full to capacity prior to the release of the official numbers.

With the enrollment of the biggest freshman class in nearly twenty years, we were hopeful we might hear the numbers are finally on the upswing. However, great freshman numbers don’t necessarily compensate for the downturn in enrollment the university has been facing over the last several years.

Today SIU released the official 10-day enrollment numbers, and the results are…

The downward spiral continues…with a very large BUT…

The overall enrollment for Fall 2013 is down 883 students with an overall enrollment total of 17,964. BUT…

There are 2571 freshman enrolled this semester, which is an increase of over 12% from Fall 2012.

Unfortunately, retention continues to be a challenge, and big freshman numbers won’t automatically translate to big sophomore, junior and senior numbers over the coming years. The Chancellor continues to point to the economy and changes in financial aid as reasons for the further decline in retention and transfer students.

While we’re talking about numbers, Fall 2012 also saw a drop of 970 to 18,847 students from 19,817 from Fall of 2011.  Enrollment has continued to drop yearly since dramatic decreases in 2008 through 2010.  In fact, enrollment has continued to steadily decline after hitting its peak at 24,869 in 1991.  Numbers stayed above 20,000 throughout the 90’s and 2000’s until dipping down below that benchmark in 2011.

The fact remains that years upon years of declined enrollment will not be resolved in one or two years of increased freshman enrollment. SIU has spent millions of dollars hiring a Chicago-based marketing firm to assist with publicity and recruitment. Do these big freshmen numbers reflect the millions being spent? Maybe so. The jury is still out if this investment will payoff with long-term results.

Either way, the numbers do tend to look a tad hopeful for now.  And as much as some locals like to complain about the students and the increased traffic, and so forth, the truth is that SIU and Carbondale need them.  Yes they tend drive the wrong way on one-way streets, and loiter on the strip and jaywalk from time to time. But healthy enrollment numbers for SIU results in a healthy economy for the city as well as the region.

Increased student numbers equal higher revenue for the university and more dollars going to local businesses. Here’s hoping the glimmer of hope we are seeing this semester is the beginning of a new era of growth at SIU.

Read the article from the SIU Newsroom: SIU Attracts Strong Freshman Class

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