September 1, 2020

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Today, we are releasing our official enrollment for fall 2020. As I hinted earlier, we have a lot to brag about.

Enrollment of first-time college students is up 31.2%, enrollment of new students from Southern Illinois is up 32.9%, and our freshman-to-sophomore retention rate has increased to 80.6%, the highest in 20 years. This is higher than the national average retention rate of 73.5% reported by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report for all institutions from 2009 to 2017.

Total enrollment is 11,366, a decline of 2.8% from fall 2019.  This is a significant change in the right direction after the last four years of 8 to 12 percent declines. As smaller classes graduate and we attract and retain larger classes, we should see positive percentages in enrollment growth very soon.

I encourage you to read the entire announcement, which includes some of the steps taken to help grow our new class and steps we are already taking for next fall.

Here is a bit more detail on strategies taken by our tremendous admissions team to help us achieve this growth:

  • A focus on more intentional engagement and follow-up with students and families leading to a direct, clear call to action – complete an application, submit a housing contract, visit the campus, accept financial aid and register for orientation.
  • Accountability for meeting weekly goals for contacts with students, applications and enrollments within the admissions counselors’ individual territories.
  • Increased outreach with high school counselors, especially in Chicago and St. Louis, to update them on what SIU offers their students.
  • Implementation of a new customer relationship management system that supports and tracks interaction with prospective students.
  • Successful transition to virtual open houses and virtual events targeting transfers and new freshmen (Transfer Tuesdays and Freshman Fridays).
  • Expansion of print materials sent to homes so that family members could see what students are receiving about SIU.
  • Admissions working hand-in-hand with college recruitment and retention coordinators in admitting and yielding prospective students.

In addition, our investments in targeted, program-focused marketing have paid off, and we are exploring ways to increase our investments.

In order to continue to enhance our recruitment efforts, we are establishing a strategically focused enrollment committee drawing expertise from across campus. Co-chaired by John Frost, director of admissions, and Lori Stettler, vice chancellor for student affairs, it will be  comprised of four task forces:

  • Enrollment Funnel: focusing on addressing the gaps and progress of prospective students from inquiry to enrollment.
  • Community Outreaching and Branding: focusing on external partnerships with businesses and local organizations and building the SIU brand in the community.
  • Strategic Enrollment Planning: focusing on policies and protocols and engaging stakeholders in significant changes.
  • Internal Events: focusing on creating and leading campus events, both in-person and virtually, to increase enrollment.

Membership invitations have gone out, and we’ll post the final membership list on my website. We anticipate that the task forces will begin their work this month.

Thanks to everyone for the work you have done on recruitment and retention so far and going forward. We have proven that we can turn enrollment around, and I am very optimistic about our future.

Austin A. Lane