EIU president tells legislators marketing campaign is paying off

EIU president tells legislators marketing campaign is paying off

SPRINGFIELD — A marketing campaign touting Eastern Illinois University and its continued high rankings by U.S. News and World Report magazine appears to be paying off, EIU President David Glassman told an Illinois House committee Thursday.

Glassman said that "in all areas of enrolling students, we are having significant, substantial increases in interest in EIU. And there has been not one change in our admissions policies, relative to quality."

He said the university appeared to be headed toward a significant increase in freshman enrollment next fall.

"We've been working very, very hard to reverse our enrollment trends, and right now, when looking at our comparisons today to last year, predictions are that we'll be up in double-digit percentages in first-time freshmen, we'll be up in transfer students, we'll be up in graduate students," Glassman said.

As of Thursday, he said the university had received 7,920 applications, compared with 6,199 a year ago. EIU had admitted 4,375 new students as of Thursday, up from 3,149 a year ago.

"We had a 5 percent increase in our spring enrollment this year over last year. I don't know how much or whether we'll have any increase in the total number of students, but we know that we'll have an increase in the number of freshman over what we had the year before and transfer students," Glassman said after his appearance before the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee. "We've got a big class of seniors who are graduating. So it's going to take us a couple of years of these increased numbers of freshmen and transfer and graduate students to see the overall increase start to build."

Glassman said a marketing campaign is responsible for the uptick.

"It's been a matter of having a concerted effort at telling the EIU story to a much broader community within the state of Illinois. We've always been strong within our central Illinois area, and people know us. But going down south and going out west and going to the northwest part of the state, we haven't spent the time to tell about this extraordinary effort that we put into each and every student that comes to EIU.

"It's a matter of more communication pieces. We've done a lot of advertising, TV ads, we have ads in movie theaters, we have billboards across the state, whereas last year we had two billboards, and both of them were within 9 miles of campus."

Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, asked whether all public universities in the state should advertise as a group.

Glassman said that they should and that the campaign could even be run nationally.

"You're not going to find anything comparable to what you're getting in Illinois, and that is for all of the different types of universities that we have here," said Glassman. "We were not advertising. We were not going to the public. You not only should be comfortable going to an Illinois state university, you should be thrilled to be able to go to an Illinois state university.

"For years, we were known as the best-kept secret in higher education in Illinois. Well, you're not going to get many students by being a secret. At one point, we didn't have to market because the students were just there. Now we have to go out and tell our story. And if we're telling our story, that means that every other Illinois university should tell its story, and then the state should support that and have it tells its story."

Glassman said that EIU has cut its operating budget by 14 percent over the last three years but insisted that it still provides a high-quality education.

"These cuts were not easy, they affected our entire campus, yet although challenged, I am proud that we were able to strategically manage our academic operations during the impasse to allow our high quality of educational excellence to be maintained for our students," Glassman said of the more than two-year-long gridlock that ended last year when lawmakers passed a tax increase and finally approved a budget.

The EIU president said that a pension and health care cost shift, proposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in his fiscal year 2019 budget, would be "very, very challenging" for Eastern.

Rauner's plan calls for transferring university pension and health care costs from the state government to universities over four years.

"To have a cost shift of this magnitude at this fast rate would be an incredible challenge not only for our university but for all of the universities," he said.

Sections (2):News, Local