NIU Sees 12% Freshman Enrollment Increase, But Overall 3% Decline
Northern Illinois University freshman enrollment is up 12% from last year, which school officials say is the biggest year-to-year increase in two decades.
This is the fifth consecutive year NIU has seen growth in freshmen students. But fall 10-day numbers also show a 3% decrease in total enrollment, which President Lisa Freeman says is largely due to the challenges of the pandemic.
“We were obviously disappointed but not surprised at the drop in retention of most predominantly first-year and first-generation students,” she said.
She says going test-blind for admissions and merit scholarships should help with retention going forward. In the short term, Freeman says keeping classes in-person will also make a difference.
“We know that that personal connection student-to-student and students-to-faculty and staff is really important for our students,” she said. “And so we just really want to stay on campus together, sharing those joys and connections, because that's really the key to retention.”
Well over half of the new freshmen are first-generation college students. Freeman says this freshman class is also the most diverse in school history.
She says NIU used COVID emergency relief funding for more peer mentors and tutors, and other grants for freshmen math tutors, to boost retention rates.
The university going test-blind for admissions and merit scholarships could help with retention going forward. In the short term, Freeman says keeping classes in-person will also make a difference.
The Huskie Pledge program, which offers free tuition and fees to some in-state students, was a major driver of the increase in freshmen. Nearly 40% of freshmen received the scholarship.
The enrollment decrease puts NIU under projections from its Strategic Enrollment Management Plan. But they’ve eclipsed the freshman goals they’d set and see overall trends headed in a positive direction.