NIU enrollment up in Fall 2020, the first time in a decade

Northern Illinois University is reporting it’s first enrollment increase in more than a decade despite the impact of COVID-19 on school operations, officials said Tuesday.

NIU officials say fall enrollment rose to 16,769 despite primarily offering online instruction and imposing restrictions on campus gatherings. That is up from last year, making it the first enrollment increase since 2008.

“NIU increased total enrollment during this challenging and dynamic time by attracting a freshman class that is strong in number, talent and diversity, and by welcoming back continuing undergraduate, graduate and law students who appreciate the quality and affordability of our educational experience,” said NIU President Lisa Freeman in a statement.

University officials also credit improved undergraduate retention as a factor in the improved enrollment numbers. Overall retention of first-year students was 78%, up 6% from last year. New transfer students fell 7%, to 1,504 this year.

Officials say Northern Illinois continues to have success recruiting students of color. This year, 35% of entering freshmen are Black, the highest that figure has been in university history. Latinx enrollment also grew, accounting for 23% of the incoming class.

“This is one of the most diverse and talented incoming classes that we have ever recruited,” Freeman said.