WIUM Tristates Public Radio

WIU Freshmen Enthusiastic Despite Budget Uncertainty

Aug 23, 2016

Illinois' ongoing budget impasse and recent funding cuts to Western Illinois University haven't hurt the enthusiasm of some new students as they begin their college education.

Students who will spend the school year living on campus moved into their home away from home over the weekend in preparation for this week's start of classes.

Tri States Public Radio visited Tanner Resident Hall, a freshman dorm on campus to ask some first year students to talk about why they chose Western.

Nearly 3,700 students moved in to Western’s nine on-campus residence halls over the weekend.

John Biernbaum is the Associate Vice President for Student Services-Student Life at Western. Part of his role is to oversee housing and dining services. He said the dorms are almost completely full this semester, aside from a few floors that are closed for renovations.

There is a reason why so many Western students choose to live in residence halls instead of off-campus housing: it's required of many of them. Students with fewer than 60 college credit hours -- basically all freshmen and sophomores -- have to live in on-campus housing. An exception is made for students who commute or live with their parents in Macomb.

Biernbaum said students who live on campus graduate sooner and have better grades than those who live off campus. He said students are also better off having a roommate than living alone.

“We want them to connect with other people. We think that is part of the college experience. Being in a single room with your cable TV, Netflix and Pokémon Go is not helpful with building a community or connection,” Biernbaum said.

Move-in day was a campus wide effort. Upperclassmen helped freshmen, and many of the university’s top administrators were also on-hand, including President Jack Thomas.

Thomas said the stop gap funding measures passed by state lawmakers this summer helped restore confidence in higher education.

 “We are very pleased with our freshmen numbers. It seems right now that our numbers are holding steady and it should be equal to the number of freshmen students we had last year, Thomas said. “So that’s a good thing and a positive thing of Western Illinois University.”

Final enrollment numbers won’t be released until 10 days into the fall semester.

Tri States Public Radio's Breanna Descourouez contributed to this story.