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Education Desk

UIS Enrollment Down Again, Falling Below 4,000 Students

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The number of students taking classes through the University of Illinois Springfield has declined by just over 200 from last year. That continues a trend that has seen enrollment drop from a high of 5,431 in 2014 to 3,944 in the current fall semester. In the fall of 2020, enrollment stood at 4,146.

Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney put part of the blame this year on COVID-19. She said it hindered efforts to visit schools and interact with students. "So many of our (undergraduate students) come from the Springfield metro area or central Illinois, and given how the high schools were so challenged last year to be open...it was tough to get to the students," she said.

"UIS still being a relatively new university with new programs, we have to work twice as hard to get our name out."

Whitney pointed out the pandemic has been a hurdle, but the school is taking a close look at its approach going forward.

"We're reflecting on these numbers and evaluating what we did this last twelve months in order to be better informed for this next cycle," she said. Whitney added that recruiting will get underway soon.

The school has been lauded as the #1 public regional university in Illinois and Whitney said the smaller enrollment can be a selling point to some students who want reduced class sizes and more one-on-one interaction with their professors.

UIS, and the entire University of Illinois system, adopted a rule requiring vaccines for those on campus this year, unless they had a medical or religious reason. The goal was to get students back in the classroom. The latest numbers show UIS has 39-percent of course offerings being held fully in-person, about double last fall. 48-percent are online and 13-percent are available remotely this year.

Whitney said a few students have backed out of taking classes on campus due to the rule, others have indicated they feel safer that most of the people they interact with are vaccinated.

Total undergraduate enrollment is 2,503, which is 151 fewer students than last fall. There are slightly fewer graduate students at 1,441.

UIS also promotes itself as a diverse campus, with nearly seven percent of students falling into the international category. Black and African-American students make up nearly 13-percent of the student body, Hispanic students nine percent and Asian students 4.5-percent.

Overall, the University of Illinois set new enrollment records on its other two campuses. University officials reported enrollment on the Urbana-Champaign campus grew by about four thousand to more than 56,000 students. The campus set new records for freshman, undergraduate and graduate enrollment.   The U of I’s Chicago campus enrollment is up about two percent from last year, with more than 34,000 total students.  

As for UIS, Whitney said she doesn't have a specific target going forward.

"We want to grow our enrollment because that is what is good for Springfield and Illinois. Having a highly educated citizenry is good for economy and democracy," she said. "So we want to grow our enrollment not to hit some artificial number, but because that's our mission."

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