The metro-east's two private universities report record attendance for the new school year while its two largest public schools say their attendance has been flat.
Lindenwood University-Belleville has seen its full time day enrollment crack the 1,000 mark for the first time with 1,020 students enrolled for the fall semester. When the program became available four years ago the total number of students enrolled was right at 100. Meanwhile, McKendree University reports that its 2013-14 freshman class is the largest in school history.
Southern Illinois University saw an increase in several majors. But, overall, registration is down 1.1 percent with 1,963 freshman enrolled for the new school year. Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville projects attendance will be flat to slightly down, according to school spokesman Mike Fleming.
Lindenwood-Belleville Vice President Jerry Bladdick said the growth at his school has far exceeded even his ambitious expectations.
"We're surpassing every goal that we've set for ourselves," Bladdick said. "We hit the ground running with our day program four years ago and things have never let up."
When Lindenwood opened in Belleville a decade ago, it only offered night classes in the fields of criminal justice and education. By 2009, day classes started with seven graduate and five undergraduate degree programs. Today, the school offers 33 degree programs, 27 athletic programs and its staff of six faculty members has surged to 40.
"We expect to continue to grow in terms of programs," Bladdick said. "And our staff and support systems will grow with our student population."
In addition to the day students, Bladdick said about 2,000 people take courses at the school during the evening education programs aimed at nontraditional students.
About 400 freshman have signed up for classes at McKendree University, a 30 percent increase over last year. While Lindenwood's daytime program is new and growing, McKendree's freshman class is the 185th in school history. The total number of undergraduates this year is also a record, 1,450.
McKendree President Jim Dennis said the school works hard to get its message out to potential new students.
"Our admission staff has worked very hard to ensure that prospective students understand what McKendree is all about, and to find students who are a good fit. Our reputation continues to be enhanced, largely by word of mouth. The fact that we have new students from 25 states shows that we're developing a national reputation. It's important to note that 83 percent of our first-year students are receiving an academic scholarship, so we're getting good students and we're able to offer them very generous financial aid."
While its overall enrollment is down, SIUE has seen a record number of students in some individual programs.
The School of Engineering's total enrollment has climbed 12 percent, with 127 new students, since last fall and 34 percent, or 352 students, since 2008, according to university figures.
SIUE's enrollment is also up in undergraduate education studies, 4.5 percent; business, 3.9 percent; and nursing 2.6 percent.
University spokesman Doug McIlhagga said the drops were in graduate and professional enrollment which is down 4 percent. He blamed the decreases on the state's financial woes which have caused it to become less lucrative for working teachers to further their education.
Overall, SIUE's enrollment is still strong, McIlhagga said. Its enrollment of 13,825 ranks as the fifth-largest class in school history.
Fleming said SWIC counts on area high school students who live within district boundaries to make up its incoming class. And, since high school populations are down over the last few years, community colleges are bound to follow the trend.
"Regional high school enrollment data confirms high school enrollments have been down during that same period, but that trend is showing signs of reversal," Fleming said. "Since SWIC historically attracts one in four high school graduates the following fall semester -- and 6 in 10 high school graduates enroll here by age 30 -- we believe that is a chief reason for this recent enrollment trend, which we expect to rebound as high school enrollments continue to rise in coming years."
Fleming said changes to transfer rules also have impacted the school.
"A second reason for recent declines in our general-education course enrollments is Department of Education restrictions on electives taken by transfer-degree students, so Pell Grant funds may now only be used for those courses which are required for a specific career path," Fleming said. "On the plus side, SWIC's online-course credit hours are up 2.2 percent to a record 10,000 taken by 2,000-plus students."
The influx of new students at local private colleges has caused a boom in university housing development on and around their campuses.
Bladdick said Lindenwood-Belleville, which is set to open a new dorm building in November, must start to consider the possibility of constructing a second before the first is finished. He said Lindenwood-Belleville was forced to contract with the Super 8 motel in downtown Belleville to find enough space for its incoming class. Students will live there until the dorm under construction is completed, likely in November.
McKendree has added an apartment building on Hunter Street, an addition to the McKendree West complex on College Road, and several leased apartments on Perryman Street in Lebanon to handle about 1,000 student residents.
Both Lindenwood-Belleville and McKendree leaders said, while about three-quarters of their students are from Illinois, their reputations have led to an increasing number of international students signing up for school.
Bladdick said Lindenwood-Belleville has students from 37 countries including Australia, China, Finland, France, Taiwan and Ukraine.
McKendree claims students from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-2626.