College enrollment in the state has been dropping for nearly a decade. However, two Jacksonville colleges appear to be bucking that trend. Illinois College and MacMurray College have shown growth in enrollment the last two years, with 2019 being an exceptional year for both schools.
Evan Wilson, Dean of Admission and Student Finances for Illinois College, says it has been a record year for enrollment for his school.
“Everything is still preliminary at this point, but we are having a record year, both on the first year new student side, as well as the total enrollments. So we will have 374 new students, and that includes new students and international transfer students. 374 is the largest new student class in our history. Total enrollment on campus is at 1,048, which also surpasses the previous record of 1,028 from back in 2004. So we are very excited about a big year this year, and we have done a lot of things strategically across campus to make that happen and we are very pleased with the results.”
Kristen Chenoweth, Director of Admissions for MacMurray College, says that her school also continues to see growth in class numbers after several years of smaller enrollment.
“Our total new students that we brought in is 196 which is actually just a little bit bigger than last years class, and these are two of the biggest classes we have brought in in several years.
196 is 156 freshman, first year new students and 40 transfer students.”
Chenoweth says it has been a challenge for MacMurray to find a lot of new students.
“We have been looking to grow the number of new students we bring in, and we have put some marketing and work into the recruitment over the last couple of years to really find the right mix of students. It is getting more challenging to find new students but, we know we want to grow overall enrollment and to do that we are going to need bigger new classes, and that has driven us to do that. To give you a feel for where we are right now, three years ago we brought in 171 students, just three years ago. Again it is a drive for us to grow the college.”
Wilson says that Illinois College is starting to see more out of state students come to Jacksonville.
“We have always drawn a large number of our students locally, I would not say that this year is anymore so, than any other year. We had an uptick in local students last year, and we saw that those number maintained for this year, so we are numbers increase more from northern Illinois and the St. Louis area as well, specifically the St’ Louis, Missouri side of the river. So we had a good year, but not just being driven by l;local enrollment, although that still is very much a part of who we are.”
Lincoln Land Community College has not locally released their numbers yet. However, they have regularly seen growth over their counterpart campus in Springfield over the last two years. With the number of high school-aged children dwindling in the Midwest overall and Illinois students transferring or enrolling in out-of-state schools, the three local colleges seem to have implemented a good strategy for keeping students with smaller class sizes, strong athletic teams, and leading academics, according to both enrollment directors.