University of Illinois Springfield Looks to Overhaul Recruitment Efforts as Enrollment Drops


Following the announcement that UIS’ enrollment fell by 7.7 percent in the fall semester, Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Natalie Herring outlined ways to reverse the decline at a recent Campus Senate meeting.

   The total number of students enrolled in fall classes at UIS is 4,575 this year, down from 4,956 students in fall 2017, according to data sent by the university.

  Undergraduate enrollment is 2,814 students, down from 2,932 in fall 2017. The number of graduate students also dropped from 2,024 in 2017 to 1,762 in 2018, according to UIS. Only freshman enrollment increased. Their numbers went from 278 to 316, making for a 14 percent jump. Herring said she does not think these declines are unusual. “In my interview [for the position] we talked about that—it’s not surprising,” she said. “Although it’s not the best news for us, I think it’s totally reversable news for us.”

   The problem with graduate enrollment, Herring said, is that the university has not had a unified graduate recruitment strategy for the whole campus. Regarding international students, it’s a little more complicated, she added.

  “We live in a crazy world right now, and everyone knows that, so there are certain situations with visas and access in and out and that kind of thing,” Herring said. “Certainly the perception of our country may be having an impact, but again, I think it does go back to strategy. Do we have a real strategy for all international recruiting students? And I think that’s something we can work on too.”

  At the meeting, Herring talked about focusing on application generation and following up, and differentiating messages to different student populations. “We’re OK with the broad communication, but we need to drill down a little bit more,” she said.

  Herring said the university needs to engage in “best practices,” including data-informed decisions. While the college is good at the “soft skills,” when it comes to recruitment, Herring said it also needs to be good with integrating technical elements as well. “This is going to help us reach out to students where they are we,” she said. “We need to be using our webinar capabilities.”

  Being “deliberate” with recruitment efforts was also touched upon during the meeting.

   “Do we have a strategy to recruit our own undergraduate students?” Herring asked. “Do we have a strategy to work with alums to recruit their children, recruit them back for graduate degrees? Do we have a strategy for employees for these various types of high schoolers?”

   Magic Wade, an assistant professor of political science, said she knows faculty wouldn’t mind being plugged into the process, and talked about videos she took part in, discussing classes she taught in the new bachelor’s degree in public policy.

   “I’m really excited, because faculty don’t want the responsibility of marketing our programs, but we do love talking about what we do, so speaking personally—and I think others share this feeling—we would love to be partnering with [the university] in this process,” she said.

    Provost Dennis Papini said when he first got to UIS last year, it was clear that the burden was being volleyed back and forth, but the responsibility for enrollment is now where it belongs.

  “This didn’t evolve in a day and it’s not going to be fixed in a day, but I do want you to know, and I think it’s evident to me if it’s not evident to you, that it’s going to be fixed,” he said.