CHARLESTON — Although official 10th-day enrollment numbers for the fall semester won’t be released until early September, Eastern Illinois University officials announced that graduate enrollment has seen a sizeable increase from last year.
Numbers are still fluid, but Ryan Hendrickson, Eastern’s Graduate School interim dean, said there will be an expected increase of 10 percent or more in the number of graduate students this semester.
This increase follows along with continued growing graduate enrollment trends at Eastern and nationwide. Hendrickson said more people are understanding the value and importance of an advanced degree and training.
While this falls in line with trends of general increases across the country, Hendrickson said this is a significant increase compared to the previous fall semester increase of 3 percent to 4 percent.
In fall 2015, the university’s total enrollment included 1,318 graduate students or 15.5 percent of total enrollment.
Departments are seeing the largest gains in technology as well as educational leadership, nutrition and dietetics, biological sciences, educational administration, political science and music education, according to a university press release.
However, growth is being experienced in all four of Eastern’s academic colleges: the College of Arts and Humanities, College of Education and Professional Studies, Lumpkin College of Business and Applied Sciences and College of Sciences.
“Our graduate programs are really shining,” Hendrickson said.
He said one of the reasons for the increases is the furthering of online implementation in the programs.
“Many of our programs are offered in an online format, and we’ve noticed exponential growth in all of them,” Hendrickson said.
He said online programming expands the university’s reach beyond regional. For example, it allows students to stay home and maintain a job while also furthering their education with the support of the online format.
He said growth in international students in these programs has also factored into the overall increases.
In general, though, Hendrickson credited the success to the programming itself. He said the graduate school has managed to make sure the programming is “competitive” and attractive to potential students.
Aside from merely boosting enrollment, the continuing increase also serves to better affect the identity of the university, Hendrickson said.
“Graduate education always boosts a university’s reputation,” he said. “In addition to providing advanced professional training to its students, it enhances the research component of the university.”
Graduate studies at Eastern currently offer 36 master’s degree programs, two specialist’s degree programs and 10 certificate programs.
Despite the increase, enrollment numbers in total will likely not reflect the same success that is found in graduate enrollment. University officials have said the university is expecting a drop in enrollment, in part because of external issues, namely the state budget impasse that have shadowed Illinois’ public universities.