January 29, 2013

Freshman programs show positive results

by Tom Woolf

Spring semester enrollments at Southern Illinois University Carbondale follow a pattern of being approximately 82 percent to 84 percent of fall enrollment due to December graduation and the inflow/outflow of transfer students.  Spring semester 2013 is no different.

Figures released today (Jan. 29) show total enrollment stands at 17,152, meaning 83 percent of students returned for the spring semester. That is consistent with the percentage of students who continued their studies in spring 2010, 2011 and 2012.

“I am very pleased with the results we have achieved even with a very large December graduation, one of the largest in many years,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said.  “Change is happening slowly, but steadily.”

One contributing factor is the UCOL 101 academic success course required of all freshmen.  The course helps smooth students’ transition to the University and creates a foundation for success throughout their undergraduate years.

“Of the 90 percent of 2,045 freshmen who took the course, 86.5 percent returned this semester,” Cheng said.  “This result is amazing when compared to the 10 percent of freshmen who unfortunately were not enrolled in UCOL 101 and who returned at only a 55 percent rate.  The expert instructors and peer mentors in UCOL 101 better connected our students to the SIU campus, support services and academic programs.”

She also noted that since full-year projections are made with the official fall enrollment count, no budget or staffing adjustments are necessary for spring.

Cheng has established a goal of all colleges increasing student retention by 2 percent for the fall 2013 semester.  Several colleges are showing progress toward that goal this semester.

“We obviously are focused on fall 2013 enrollment, and the indicators are promising,” Cheng said.  “As of last week, we had received 11,962 new freshman applications. Housing contracts for fall, our best indicator of enrollment, also are running ahead of last year, currently by 20 percent.”

Earlier this month, SIU hosted 430 high-achieving high school students and their families for Chancellor’s Scholarship Weekend.  Members of the faculty and staff interviewed the students, who were competing for 35 Chancellor’s Scholarships, the most prestigious awarded by the University.

“This was the largest effort we have made to attract high-achieving students, and the event went extremely well, attracting families from 15 states,” Cheng said.

The students and their families – more than 1,100 people in all – enjoyed campus tours, college showcases, and a variety of other activities.  Although scholarship recipients have yet to be announced, already 140 of the students who visited campus have committed to SIU for next fall by signing contracts to live in residence halls.

“We are learning more about what contributes to students’ decisions about college,” Cheng said.  “This feedback has guided our marketing communications and recruitment efforts.  We are succeeding in attracting attention and getting students and families to consider SIU as one of their choice universities for fall 2013.”