While many universities struggle with enrollment declines, Illinois State started the academic year with an increase in new freshmen and transfers. With strong retention numbers as well, the University’s on-campus headcount rose to 21,080 this fall.

“Given the economy and the stiff student recruitment competition from public and private colleges, I think this year’s numbers are simply remarkable,” President Al Bowman said. “Illinois State University is once again proving to be a first choice for new students.”

There is a natural decline in the number of graduating high school seniors in Illinois which, combined with the economy, is creating competition for college-bound students. And yet the quality of the incoming freshman class remains high, with an average ACT score near 24 and a grade point average topping 3.3.

Diversity within the student body also improved. Bowman credited Illinois State’s many outreach programs with helping attract talented students from underrepresented groups. Non-white students comprise 18.9 percent of the incoming freshman class versus 17.8 percent last year. The largest gains were African American students, with a 25 percent jump from last fall.