Editorial: SIU’s Nauseating Enrollment Numbers and the Sickening Administrative Spin

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As expected, the enrollment news at SIU was more depressing than expected. And SIU officials said th
Chris Wissmann

As expected, the enrollment news at SIU was more depressing than expected. And SIU officials said they expected it, a sort of tacit admission that they long ago threw in the towel with regard to student recruitment and retention for this semester.

After projecting a three percent decline from fall 2015, the official ten-day number, announced on Tuesday, was actually a loss of 7.6 percent. Total SIU enrollment now lays at 15,987, a stunning a decrease of 1,305 students from fall 2015.

That’s one of the largest drops in the school’s history.

Not since the close of the Vietnam War and the end of the student deferment and the military draft has SIU lost so many students. It’s worse, far worse, than any of the Titanic-quality enrollment sinkings that marked the administrations of Walter Wendler, Glenn Poshard, or Rita Cheng.

Fall 2016 also marks an almost thirty-six percent decline compared to the 1991 enrollment peak of 24,869 total students. It is by far the fewest students on this SIU campus since 1964. As our chief graphic artist, Kendra Kennedy-Gordon, noted, SIU has in twenty-five years lost more people than live in Murphysboro— the second largest city in Jackson County.

That’s pathetic.

University system president Randy Dunn and campus chancellor Brad Colwell should feel ashamed.

Other state and regional schools have different reporting deadlines, but thus far most are signaling that they will look a lot better than SIU.

Total enrollment at Illinois State is up by 1.1 percent, a growth of 232 students from fall 2015.

The SIU Edwardsville campus saw a decline of less than one percent, but fall 2015 was that campus’s all-time attendance record. A couple of more years at this pace, and the Edwardsville campus, which currently educates 14,142 students, will overtake the Carbondale campus in population size.

Hell, after a few more years like this, the Carbondale campus won’t have any students at all.

The University of Illinois’s official headcount will come out September 8, while Southeast Missouri State’s final census comes out after thirty days, rather than ten. Both, however, released optimistic first-day enrollment figures.

As Nightlife reported last week, Illinois’s flagship campus at Urbana-Champaign boasted a 712-student increase in its first-day enrollment. SEMO is off its fall 2014 first-day enrollment record by a tad, but from 2015 that school saw a 1.1 percent overall increase, a beginning freshmen jump of 10.6 percent, and the highest retention rate in the school’s recent history with a remarkable 74.3 percent of its new students coming back this semester.

Eastern Illinois, of all places, is expecting record international enrollment and higher graduate-student enrollment, while SIU saw decreases in both— revealing as pretty weak the excuses made by Carbondale campus officials.

As far back as March, Western Illinois, of all places, was expecting significant increases in transfer students from community colleges in downstate Illinois.

We’ll see how those projections turn out. They could be as inaccurate as SIU’s were.


But no matter how much Dunn and Colwell try to spin their own numbers, they’re only going to make those who listen to them sick.