Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fall enrollment shows transition taking place at UIS

The University of Illinois at Springfield has announced another increase in the number of freshmen this fall (311), and more students are living on campus than ever before (1,050).

While more undergraduates have enrolled at UIS this fall – a total of 2,889 compared to 2,861 last year – the number of graduate students, mostly part-time, has decreased, from 1,990 last year to 1,822 this fall. The total number of students enrolled at UIS is 4,711.

UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen said it is pretty clear that a transition is taking place. "We are beginning to see a change in our student body -- there are more full-time students," he said. "Historically, the university has had a much larger part-time student population, but now we are seeing more students taking larger course loads."

Ringeisen said UIS anticipated the change by building additional townhouses and a new residence hall that just opened this fall. There are 132 freshmen living in Founders Hall even as work to finish the building continues. A total of 218 freshmen and sophomores are living in Lincoln Residence Hall, completed in fall 2001 for the first class of freshmen at UIS.

The drop in graduate students is likely a phenomenon that is related to the struggling economy, according to Marya Leatherwood, Director of Enrollment Management. "Graduate students tend to study on a part-time basis and are more apt to be affected by what's happening with the economy. We can only assume that is true in this case," she said.

Ringeisen said UIS is approaching a time when "we'll be talking about having an ideal number of students, although we certainly want to bring our graduate student numbers back up to a higher level," he said. "Let's be very clear. We have an excellent number and variety of graduate programs and internships. We want to serve graduate students, and we do so very well in small classes and a caring atmosphere of excellence."

Online/blended learning grows in popularity

Online and blended learning enrollments are both up at UIS this fall. There are 1,200 students majoring in online degree and certificate programs, an increase of 11% compared to the 1,082 students enrolled online last fall.

According to Ray Schroeder, Director of UIS' Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning, online students represent just over 25% of the total number of students at UIS this fall.

He said that enrollments in blended learning classes, where the number of visits to the campus are reduced by students taking some of the regular semester class sessions online, total 232, up nearly 54% from last fall's blended class enrollment of 151.

UIS recently began offering a number of its degree programs in blended format where the number of on-campus sessions is reduced by half over the completion of the degree. Half of the sessions among the courses required for the degree are held online, reducing the need to commute to campus and cutting child care expenses by 50%.

"The growth in online and blended programs is consistent with national trends. Students are seeking to reduce the costs, in terms of both time and money, of commuting to classes on campus," Schroeder said. He noted that more than 135 UIS faculty members are teaching at least one online class this fall.

Slightly more than 38% of online majors have mailing addresses outside of Illinois, and nearly 85% of the Illinois online students live outside of Sangamon County.

The new blended learning program at UIS was funded in part by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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