The national economy has translated into fewer students for Illinois colleges and universities.
The state’s community colleges and universities saw a decline in enrollment of nearly 100,000 students from fall 2008 to fall 2018, according to a State Journal-Register report.
Brian Durham, executive director of the Illinois Community College Board, said this is due, in part, to a strong economy.
“Largely it is driven by the economy,” he said. “When the economy is good, we have less enrollment, and when the economy is bad, we have better enrollment.
“When the economy is doing really well, you will see less enrollment because people don’t need retraining the same way they do when the economy is struggling. You’ll find that most of the decline has been in career tech-education programs and adult education programs,” he added.
The state’s spending on higher education and the budget impasse also contributed to the decline, Durham said.
“Illinois created what I’ll call a crisis of confidence a little bit, and higher education – I think people were concerned about the state of higher ed. You had a lot of impact on colleges and universities as well,” he said.
Durham said schools should focus on recruitment and retention of existing students.
“I think it’s really important that universities and colleges consider the needs of their students individually, you know, but they work to meet those needs and to help students that are struggling stay in school,” he said.
Durham also pointed out that declining enrollment isn’t limited to Illinois; it is a national issue.