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DeKalb, IL – The fall 2023 freshman class at Northern Illinois University continues to demonstrate that high-achieving students from a variety of backgrounds have found NIU to be their university of choice. The incoming class is highly diverse and includes an increased number of new transfer students this fall over last. Huskies are again re-enrolling from year to year at pre-pandemic levels, and more students are choosing to live on campus. These are just a few of the facts that make this year’s class yet another reason to see a steady and promising future ahead.
The new Huskies are academically accomplished. According to the official 10-day count, total freshman enrollment is 2,202. These newly arrived scholars and leaders come to NIU having earned an average high school GPA of 3.42, the second consecutive year that the incoming freshman class has set this record. Under the university’s test-free admission and merit scholarship processes, NIU awarded more than $7.2 million in merit scholarships to new freshmen who arrive with cumulative high school GPAs of 3.0 or higher. Nearly 20% of incoming freshmen had 4.0 high school GPAs, while 36% of new freshmen had high school GPAs of 3.7 or higher. In 2023, the Honors Program added 282 new freshmen, and now has a total enrollment of 1,073 honors students, an increase of 14% over last fall.
The demographics of the incoming students remain reflective of NIU’s public mission. They are an economically, socially and racially diverse group of learners, with 57% first-generation college students and 70% students of color. NIU’s AIM HIGH Huskie Pledge program, funded by the State of Illinois, continues to ensure that qualifying Illinois students from lower-income households can attend college with no tuition or general fees for their first year, and potentially beyond. This fall, 866 incoming students were eligible and will not have to pay out-of-pocket expenses for tuition and general fees. Further, NIU experienced an enrollment increase in new transfer students this fall of 6% over a year ago—to 1,325 students.
For the first time in NIU’s history, Latinx students represent 25% of the total undergraduate population. This significant achievement places the institution on a trajectory to be fully designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). Recruitment and retention of international students has been another area of success. NIU’s total fall enrollment of students from outside the United States surpassed the 1,000 mark for the first time since 2016. In all, international students represent 73 different countries. NIU has continued to place great significance on the value and importance of a diverse university community, and this year’s class demonstrates that this message resonates with students.
“This fall, we’re seeing very positive data as new transfer-student enrollment increased, continuing undergraduates are re-enrolling at significantly higher rates, and more students want to live on campus. Most importantly, we’ve worked diligently to remove barriers to a high-quality education and are attracting talented students, including many from populations that are often underserved or overlooked,” NIU President Dr. Lisa C. Freeman said.
While enrollment of new students is essential to the academic mission, NIU has not taken for granted the importance of student retention. In combination, recruitment and retention efforts have been critical to maintaining the overall enrollment of its students. The total student enrollment remained relatively flat this year at 15,504, compared to 15,649 last fall, a difference of less than 1%.
“NIU redoubled its retention efforts and saw re-enrollment rates increase substantially this fall, near pre-pandemic levels,” said Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Laurie Elish-Piper. “Our successes included substantial increases in the rate of re-enrollment among new freshmen from 2022 and extended to underserved groups such as first-generation college students, where retention can be more challenging for universities nationwide. As a campus, we’ve really embraced retention as a shared responsibility, and we’re seeing the benefits. We’re going to continue growing our retention efforts by being even more collaborative, intentional and data-informed.”
Not to be overlooked, the total number of students now living on campus exceeds 4,100 and is the highest occupancy figure since the fall of 2015. Many of these residential students seek experiences in NIU’s 10 living-learning communities to help round out their collegiate careers. This added level of engagement contributes to their academic success and personal and professional development.
“We’re seeing a lot of positive trends this fall that speak to the academic quality and success of our students,” said Sol Jensen, NIU vice president for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. “Our latest Strategic Enrollment Management planning efforts were essential, helping us to be resilient and successful in times of rapid change.”
Media Contact: Joe King
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 areas of study while serving a diverse and international student body.
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