Governors State Reports Increased Graduate, International Students, Balancing Undergraduate Dip
In a historic year marked by a global pandemic and new leadership, Governors State University is reporting surging enrollments in graduate and double-digit increases in international students for the university’s Census, the official 10-day enrollment report.
Despite a dip in undergraduate headcount enrollment of 5.74 percent, increases in full-time graduate and international students offered some balance in a year upended when COVID-19 struck.
Freshman enrollment dropped to 209 students, down from last year’s historic high of 263 students, the largest class since the university began admitting freshmen in 2014.
Paul McGuinness, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management and Athletics, said the 209 incoming freshmen reflect a return to what is average for an incoming Governors State University freshman class.
Returning students are believed to be driving graduate headcount enrollment, up nearly 2.84 percent, and international students, up nearly 24 percent. Improved retention efforts and new programs are also factors.
Dr. Cheryl Green, Governors State’s new president, assumed the role on July 1 as the university was navigating a new landscape shaped by COVID. She said the dip in enrollment was expected and consistent with other Illinois public universities.
Still, Dr. Green said she was pleased with the surges in full-time master and doctorate degree enrollment, 6 and 5.45 percent, respectively, as well as a double-digit increase in international students.
“We’re in line with our sister universities, some of whom are flat and others slightly down overall. What I’m excited about is the surge in full-time students seeking master’s and doctorate degrees, as well as our solid fiscal position,’’ said Green.
The overall 2.84 percent bump in graduate student enrollment reflects, in part, a trend started in the semesters leading up to the pandemic, said Jason Vignone, Director of Graduate Admission and Retention.
Vignone said the university’s new software tool improved communication with new and prospective students to create a sense connectedness with students who felt more supported to continue educational pursuits in uncertain times.
The pandemic expectedly siphoned off students—who may have assumed home-based jobs or continued their roles as caregivers and rightly delayed the start of a degree program due to the many constraints already in front of them.
“A lot of our students are not traditional students. Many are parents who had to stay home to help their students e learn,” said Vignone.
Adding to new graduate student numbers were two new graduate programs this fall. The university added Master of Science in Human Resource Management and Master of Science in Health Informatics degrees were to reflect two quickly growing segments of society and are expected to continue growing to meet market demand for expertise.
In the international student column, the university had seen a spike in 2019 following stepped up international student recruiting which carried over this year.
Overall, Vignone said the university’s dedication to improving recruitment and retention has paid off.
“We had engaged a more sustained and consistent plan that helped our students come in ready, so even though we lost students as a university, our previous efforts were able to sustain us,’’ he said.