The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform recently compared enrollment data of Illinois public colleges and universities against similar schools in six neighboring states.
Enrollment at the state's three largest public universities increased -- but just barely. The biggest gain was at the University of Illinois flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign, at 1.8%.
But Sarah Brune, director of the non-partisan research group, says Illinois' mid-size schools fell behind their neighbors.
"Three of the four schools with the largest decline were in Illinois, and that was Northern Illinois University, Western Illinois, and SIU-Carbondale," she said.
Smaller schools fared even worse, with an overall average decline that put Illinois dead last among the seven states. One of the small schools is Eastern Illinois, which saw a 13 percent decline.
The biggest drop of any school in the study was Chicago State University. It saw a reduction in enrollment by almost 25 percent, and a freshman class of just 86 students.