Jun 13, 2022 - Business

Illinois undergraduate enrollment drops

Illustration of a graduation mortarboard with a "skip" symbol on it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Illinois undergraduate enrollment dropped 11.2% from spring 2019 to spring 2022.

Why it matters: College enrollment has been declining for nearly a decade, but the pandemic is accelerating the trend, raising concerns about a possible generational shift in higher education.

  • Plus, loss of undergrads means a loss of revenue for universities.

Zoom in: The biggest losses in the state came from two-year and community colleges.

  • At College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, the state's largest community college, officials say full-time enrollment dropped 14.7% from 2018 to 2021.
  • A COD spokesperson attributes it to "health, economics, value proposition, decline in the number of high school graduates, and the outmigration of high school graduates to other states."

Yes, but: The trend is different over at the state's largest four-year colleges, which are seeing a rise in enrollment.

  • University of Illinois in Chicago gained 638 students from fall 2019 to fall 2021 and now has 22,279 undergrads.
  • Northwestern gained 168 undergrads and now has about the same number it did in 2013.
  • University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign had its biggest freshman class ever in 2021-2022, gaining 700 undergraduates from 2019 to 2021 for a total of 34,559.

What they're saying: "Our Illinois Commitment program has been a key factor in helping prospective students understand that an Illinois education is affordable and attainable," says U of I's associate provost for enrollment management, Daniel Mann.

  • "Anecdotally, the university has received a great deal of positive feedback from parents and students about our response to the pandemic," he tells Axios.

The other side: While DePaul saw a slight rise in undergrad enrollment between '19 and '21 and a record-breaking freshman class in 2021, overall enrollment has still declined since 2017.

  • DePaul spokesperson Mary Hansen attributed it to "increased competition for students among universities and declining numbers of college-going students."

The big picture: A recent N.Y. Times story noted similar changes across the nation as many prospective students weigh the benefits of taking on college debt versus entering the workforce.

Data: National Student Clearinghouse; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios
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