Enrollment Exodus

Many public and private institutions of higher education in Illinois have seen student numbers continue to drop over the last decade. Contributing factors include the state's ongoing financial instability, a shrinking population overall, and increased competition from other Midwestern colleges and universities offering lucrative financial aid packages.

Next week, we are unpacking the effect of Illinois students leaving the state for college and what these schools are trying to do to buck the trend. Enrollment Exodus is a week-long collaborative reporting effort by public radio stations across the state.

Special thanks to contributing stations: Illinois NewsroomNPR IllinoisTri-States Public RadioWBEZWGLT, WNIJ and WSIU.

Story links will be posted here throughout the week of Sept. 23.

Many Illinois colleges and universities are struggling to attract and keep students.  The problem, along with what some are doing about it, is outlined in the Illinois public radio series Enrollment Exodus. 

On this episode of Statewide, we hear those reports from journalists throughout Illinois.  

A four-year degree is not the only option for students when they finish high school. But many choose community college in an effort to join the workforce sooner and save on tuition costs.

Illinois colleges and universities have been under pressure for years from smaller graduating classes, out-of-state competition and changing demographics. Private higher education institutions in the state face the same challenges public schools do and a couple extra.

Illinois State University had another great recruiting year, with a 1.2% increase in total enrollment and the largest freshman class in 33 years. It's another stable year. Several other schools throughout the state continued years of enrollment drops.

Lee V. Gaines/Illinois Newsroom

When Francisco Gamino arrived at Parkland College four years ago, he didn’t know how to balance work and find the time he needed to study.

Zihan Wang poses on Quad
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

International students, especially those from China, play a crucial role in funding the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

What happens when universities see enrollment plunge year after year? For many Illinois schools, they focus on how to hold on to the students already walking their halls. Students often leave between their first and second year.

Tammy Yates was excited to come to Macomb seven years ago.