Universities struggle amid declining enrollment

Feb 27, 2014

Enrollment is down at many of Illinois' public universities. As Illinois Public Radio's Hannah Meisel reports, the lost tuition is hurting schools' bottom line.

As the state has cut funding to higher education, universities have made up for the losses by raising tuition. But when there are fewer students to pay, colleges feel the squeeze all over again. At Western Illinois University, enrollment is down two percent from last year -- about 500 fewer students. Officials say that's an opportunity cost a nearing a million dollars. Western's president Jack Thomas:

"The decline in enrollment is a pressure, yes."

Enrollment is down at Eastern Illinois University too. The school cut 11 percent of its staff in the last five years, which President William Perry says has saved $10 million dollars. So doesn't smaller enrollment plus smaller staff equals smaller growth?

"Well, yes, but the first place to grow as a higher ed institution is in quality and keeping the quality up."

Both men were in Springfield asking lawmakers for more money -- or at least flat funding -- next year.