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Illinois universities competing for students

October 1, 2014

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — As public university enrollment declines or remains flat, Illinois schools are competing to recruit students from across the country and around the world.

Fewer students are graduating from the state’s high schools and many of them decide to attend college in another state, according to university officials. The combination of climbing college tuition and a struggling economy is also contributing to enrollment woes, they said.

“The recession certainly played a role at SIU and many other universities across the country,” said Rae Goldsmith, chief marketing and communications officer at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Paul Palian, Northern Illinois University’s director of media and public relations, agrees with Goldsmith. And the level of financial aid hasn’t increased enough to keep up with the rising cost of college, he said.

Because of this, competition for all students has become “supercharged,” Troy Johnson, Illinois State University’s associate vice president of enrollment management, told The (Bloomington) Pantagraph (http://bit.ly/1rGaQc7 ). Universities are now forced to look to new markets through out-of-state or international students.

“There are many universities that are implementing international student enrollment plans,” Johnson said. “That’s a sign of the great effort universities are having to make.”

Last year Northern Illinois University created a new position, vice president of international affairs, to attract more international students and foster partnerships for study abroad opportunities. The DeKalb school’s new focus caused international student enrollment to increase by 30 percent, from 847 in 2013 to 1,090 this fall.

The state’s universities are also focusing on marketing and retention.

“We also are investing wisely in everything from social media to targeted campaigns that target students personally,” Johnson said of Illinois State University.

Southern Illinois University and Northern Illinois University both reported that their retention rates have increased since they launched retention plans to provide academic advice to students last year.

“It used to be you could just sit back and wait for the students to come to you,” Northern Illinois University’s Palian said.

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Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com

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