SIU Carbondale students come from every county in Illinois, all 50 states and exactly 100 countries. Our status as a national and global university is a point of pride. It is also a message to prospective students: At SIU, you will have opportunities to interact with people from around the country and world that will prepare you for work and life after graduation.
Even as we embrace our global status, we cannot forget that we are also a local university. In fact, nearly 23% of our current students come from 17 counties in southern Illinois.
Since arriving at SIU just over 100 days ago, I have been doing what new chancellors do: reaching out to high school superintendents and principals as well as community college leaders close to home. The conversations have been eye-opening, and much of the feedback I am receiving is very positive.
But one universal message is clear and not positive: They don’t feel that we have been doing everything we can to recruit their students to SIU. I don’t want to look backward to determine whether their views reflect perception or reality. I know many people have worked very hard on these relationships in the past. However, we must acknowledge the perceptions and work hard to change them.
We need to work harder to demonstrate that we want every qualified student in our region to consider SIU as their academic home.
Initiatives that matter
More outreach is, of course, a first step. Our meetings, combined with a renewed emphasis on southern Illinois from our capable admissions and marketing staff, are a productive step. We have also implemented several programs, including SIU Day and a Counselor Choice Scholarship, for students in the region. These initiatives have paid off, contributing to a nearly 30% increase of new students from the region this fall.
Other initiatives for all prospective students, like the Saluki Commitment, the Saluki Transfer Commitment and the elimination of test scores as a requirement for admission, should also appeal to prospective first-time and transfer students from the region.
An economic engine
The recruitment of students from southern Illinois relates to our responsibility as an economic engine for the region. While enrollment from any part of the world is important, enrollment from southern Illinois has the potential to keep more students in the region – and contributing to its economy – after graduation. Even keeping them here for four years as students will have a beneficial impact.
In short, we simply can’t do enough to tell southern Illinois that we care about students in the region. It doesn’t mean that we are ignoring students from other parts of the state, country or world. It means that we want to make sure that the students and families in our own backyard know they are wanted and welcome at SIU Carbondale.
I hope you will join me in sharing this message and helping us deliver on its promise.