WIU hopeful for 3% increase in new freshman, aim to increase retention

Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 5:07 PM CST
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MACOMB (WGEM) - After last week’s Western Illinois University Board of Trustees meeting, enrollment management reports indicate that the school could see more freshman one year from now.

This fall, WIU is seeing its largest freshman class in the last five years, 1,074, a 154 student increase from last fall.

Overall enrollment sits at 7,643, which is up 2.5% from last fall.

While recent reports indicate WIU could see the desired 3% increase in new freshman next fall, Vice President for Enrollment Management Amber Schultz said transfer students are the hardest to recruit currently.

“When your community college partners are down on enrollment, especially within their liberal arts degree transfer programs, that’s definitely going to impact us,” Schultz said.

The December BOT report shows the amount of applications received from prospective transfer students is down 15.3%.

Another obstacle Schultz would like to tackle is the desired 70% retention rate per term.

“Right now we’re a little bit short of that, but we still have some time before January to make those numbers up,” she said.

While transfer and retention number improvements are on the to-do list, Schultz mentioned new entering graduate students numbers for next fall are up 57.2%.

Director of Admissions and Enrollment Services Doug Freed credits the university’s efforts to bring in prospective students for in-person campus tours.

It’s something he said was nonexistent in 2020, and now WIU is seeing the positive attributes of seeing more students.

“We were totally restricted, we couldn’t bring anybody to campus [in 2020],” Freed said. “The best way to know what a campus is, is to visit and we know it’s not always possible but many students do visit campus.”

Freed said the admissions department typically holds at least two different campus tours per day with between five and 20 prospective students in each group.

For students like Jose Hernandez, a campus visit is what sealed the deal.

“It’s a little scary thinking about being away from home and being separated from your family, but I figured if this is going to better my life, I want to go see what the school looks like,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez came to WIU as a junior, transferring from a community college in the Chicagoland area.

“If you don’t ultimately know what the school actually is, if you don’t feel out the environment, if you don’t feel out the vibe of the school so to say then you’re probably wasting your time with the school,” he said.

Schultz hopes to have 9,000 students enrolled by 2027.

“This time of year numbers also fluctuate quite a bit,” Schultz said.

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