September 5, 2017
Faculty and staff colleagues,
Today, we are announcing an official fall 2017 enrollment of 14,554. The decline of 8.96 percent over last year was not unexpected, and there is some good news to be found in the numbers. Our ACT scores for new freshmen continue to increase, and year-to-year retention rates for new freshmen continue to grow. These increases signal that we can continue to build on our efforts to attract outstanding students to SIU. Off-campus graduate student enrollment also continues to grow.
Overall, while the totals are disappointing, I am confident that we can rebuild. As we do so, we will also continue to build the quality of the student body while maintaining the university’s longstanding commitment to diversity. It must be a collaborative effort, and it will take several years to manifest our success.
We could cite multiple reasons for our declining enrollment, including but not limited to the state budget impasse, but these reasons cannot become excuses. Instead, they should motivate us to work together to make the changes necessary to reclaim our status and attract students as a comprehensive doctoral research university – the only one of our kind in the region. As the flagship of the SIU system, we will reassert our position as a leader in research, an innovator in education and an enabler of prosperity.
In my few weeks here, I have been impressed by the positive energy I find at SIU. Our faculty, staff, alumni, friends and community are committed to SIU’s success. We need to harness that energy and commitment around a shared vision for our future, forward-thinking academic programs and strong, responsive services that begin well before a student enrolls and continue after graduation. I will elaborate on all of these concepts in my State of the University address on September 26. We will announce the time and location shortly.
Meanwhile, I continue to engage in a deep dive – in collaboration with offices across campus -- looking at all of the pieces of the puzzle. From recruitment to academic programs to research, we must all be focused on revamping strategies as well as identifying and knocking down the barriers that impede our progress. As an immediate step, we are restructuring our recruitment and retention initiatives into an enrollment management unit that will work across campus and report directly to my office. Again, I will share more later this month.
Turning enrollment around is a team effort, and we cannot afford to have anyone sitting on the bench. Whatever your responsibility -- whether you focus on maintaining our beautiful campus, supporting operations, or working with students – you have a critically important role to play in our future success.
As someone new to SIU, I see an institution that has much to be proud of. We are known for our commitment to community service and to students from all
backgrounds, we are nationally ranked as a doctoral research institution, we have many highly respected academic programs, and our students graduate with unique experiences that position them for success. This is just the start.
My hope is that you are equally proud to be a part of SIU and that you share your pride in every engagement with students, alumni, community members, and colleagues on campus and elsewhere.
With a shared vision, a commitment to analyzing everything we do, the willingness to make changes where needed, and your advocacy of our university, we can transform SIU. We have much hard and rewarding work ahead. I look forward to collaborating with you on the transformation.