CSU interim president, trustees blame bad publicity for decreased enrollment
Interim President Cecil Lucy recently attributed Chicago State University’s (CSU) declining enrollment to “a concerted effort by a few who continuously desire to hurt the university by flooding the media with negative press.”
This comes in response to several negative stories published in the Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune.
The financially unstable public institution, which serves a mostly minority student body on the city’s south side, has suffered a sharp enrollment decline in recent years. This year’s incoming class comprises just 86 students; CSU enrolled only 199 freshman the previous year.
“I know that’s there’s nothing we can do about the Sun-Times and the Tribune or whatever,” trustee Michael Curtin said, but he made clear his frustration with the “miserable efforts we’ve made in the area of recruiting.”
“(It is) pretty hard to run an institution with no students,” he said.
Despite this grim outlook, Lucy told CSU’s board of trustees on Dec. 9 that the school’s main recruitment message should be: “Chicago State is not closing; it’s thriving.”
The board agreed, with at least one member suggesting the phrase be used as a new marketing slogan.
“I think we need to get that central core message out there because I think that’s the strategy of those who don’t like this college,” Lucy said. “They create distractions and things to say ‘we’re closing’ -- so if a student is concerned about their future, they’re not going to enroll.”
Lucy has committed himself to countering information that may be negatively affecting interest among new students.
“Contrary to the negative information about CSU, there is substantially more positive information that we are committed to doing a better job of sharing both internally and externally to make sure the facts are known,” he said.
Among the positive information that should be shared is “our students" love for Chicago State University,” Lucy added, citing a recent episode when students "shut down the northbound lanes of the Dan Ryan expressway.” In January of 2016, CSU students briefly stopped traffic on the highway at 87th Street to protest the state budget impasse, which they claimed would result in the school's closing.
“My ask for each faculty member, staff, administrator and community is to have the same level of expression of love for Chicago State University,” Lucy said.
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