The recent budget crisis in Illinois created real problems for college students across the state, some of whom opted to find less uncertainty in colleges in other states.
While enrollment was down at many Illinois campuses last fall, Illinois State University weathered the fiscal crisis in better shape. The University drew record-breaking freshman classes in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
But the budget crisis casts a long shadow. This fall's incoming freshman class is estimated to be around 3,350 students. That's down from the 3,638 students in last fall's freshman class.
"We're still pretty excited about how many students we have on campus," said Jana Albrecht, interim vice president for enrollment management at ISU.
"The last four classes we've had here are the largest freshman classes we've had in decades," added Jeff Mavros, ISU's director of admissions.
"We've got a great product to sell here at Illinois State, with the ongoing development that happens in Uptown (Normal) and great leadership at the institution, and incredible marketing effort by so many around campus. Recruitment is a team sport at Illinois State. We all work at an institution that 'gets it,' and it's a community that pulls together to attract students."
According to Mavros, Illinois State University is the No. 1 destination for transfer students in Illinois.
"About 34 percent of ISU students started elsewhere. That's a real point of pride for us," he said.
"We encourage potential transfer students to look at our College Scorecard so they can see our retention rates and our graduation rates," said Albrecht. "We compare very favorably on a lot of those points. And we say a lot of times that this is a big school with a small school feel, and I feel that a lot of students are attracted to that.
"The fact that they have so many opportunities for majors, things to do on campus as far as group activities, and the fact that you can walk across campus in just 10 or 15 minutes. We have a good product, a good school and people feel that they're really going to succeed when they come," she added.
Technology plays an increasingly larger role in student communication at ISU. The University uses social media on many platforms to engage with students and make them feel welcome and a part of the school, noted Mavros.
"We like to engage students at all levels—prospect, inquiry, applicant—at all levels of engagement with the institution. And this year was our first year of a pilot program of texting students, and anecdotally it was a great response. We texted those who had applied and been admitted, and we texted them mostly about the next steps in the process, be that filing financial paperwork or upcoming events in their area, things that we would like them to do in their next steps to becoming a Redbird."
You can also listen to GLT's full interview with Albrecht and Mavros.
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