ISU trustees briefed on student affairs, enrollment, budget
Indiana State University is projecting 1,800 freshmen in Fall 2022, up from 1,433 in Fall 2021, and freshman applications are up 42% from last year, officials told the Board of Trustees on Thursday.
During presentations on student affairs, enrollment and the budget, officials said graduate applications are up 13% and transfer applications are up 7%.
Retention of students has also improved due in part to programs ISU has created with a Lilly Endowment grant. Students in the program receive mentoring from professionals, working in cooperation with faculty advisors, to keep students enrolled and on track toward graduation and career goals.
“We are very confident that many students will continue to choose ISU because of our record of success and academic quality that allow our alumni to become teachers, nurses, thought and business leaders, public officials, and public servants across the state,” said Dr. Christopher Olsen, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
ISU has a long record of success in social mobility and career placement. In CollegeNet’s annual Social Mobility Index, ISU has been first or second in the state for the past seven years. ISU’s excellent placement rate for graduates was 99 percent for the Class of 2019 and remained high even during the pandemic at 92 percent.
Last year, ISU launched the Indiana State Advantage, a three-pronged enrollment initiative that is unusual if not unique for a public university. Starting in Fall 2022, freshmen receive up to $3,000 for an out-of-classroom educational experience during their college career; four years of tuition is free for Pell Grant-eligible students from Indiana who earn a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher; and if eligible students don’t graduate in four years, the university covers the rest of tuition. These programs support all students, particularly those most likely to have left short of a degree or hesitated to continue during the pandemic.
Other enrollment initiatives included launching an online MBA program and an emphasis on attracting transfer students for degree completion.
Dr. Jason Trainer, Vice Provost of Enrollment Management, said actions to attract prospective students and retain existing students are working, but rebuilding enrollment is a work in progress.
“Enrollment is a challenge for us, as it is for many institutions of higher education,” Trainer said. “But ISU is laser-focused on answering this challenge head-on, and we’re encouraged by early signs of success. It is not something that can be fixed in one year.”
With the smaller freshman classes of the pandemic years, there will be fewer returning students than in the past, so restoring enrollment requires multiple years. Adding to the challenge, the number of students attending college nationally is decreasing. The National Student Clearinghouse estimated 1.2 million fewer college students this year alone compared to the previous year.
Officials said the pandemic hit ISU’s enrollment especially hard because the students most likely to skip or put off college — first-generation college students and lower-income students — are an important part of the demographic ISU serves. That demographic is especially important for the state of Indiana’s goal to attract businesses with an educated workforce.
ISU also became more selective in admissions, aligning with the goals of the state of Indiana — increasing graduation rates and increasing the percentage of students who are paying off government student loans. Over several years before the impact of the pandemic, ISU’s retention rate for first-year students increased from 53% to 69%. The four-year graduation rate increased almost 15 percentage points over the same time.
Officials said recruiting more students is the responsibility of everyone on campus and they’re grateful for collaboration with the Faculty Senate, Staff Council, and the Student Government Association.
While remaining confident and optimistic about the future, officials said decreased tuition revenue will require changes to campus operations.
“We budget conservatively, as good stewards of finances,” said Diann McKee, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration. “We have to live within our means. Planning continues as we constantly monitor budget projections.”
Officials said Indiana State is poised and confident to meet the goals of educating students and supporting business partners in advancing their goals with career-ready graduates. The Preferred Partners program involves ISU working with businesses that want enhanced access to university programs and benefits.
ISU President Dr. Deborah J. Curtis said the university has everything it needs to attract students, including outstanding facilities; a caring, world-class faculty; and myriad opportunities for students in and out of the classroom.
“ISU has weathered many challenges in its history, and has emerged stronger,” Curtis said. “We have smart, dedicated Sycamores who will make this happen again.”