ILLINOIS (WCIA) — More freshman are going to Illinois’ 12 public universities across the state, while public universities nationwide saw a decrease in enrollment.

Data from the Illinois Board of Higher Education released Friday shows that undergraduate enrollment for the fall 2023 semester increased by 0.3%. Freshman enrollment for the state’s increased by 1.5%, making it the third year in a row where freshman enrollment increased in Illinois. Nationwide, freshman enrollment decreased by 6.1% at public universities.

State leaders attribute the draw of stud success to budgets that invest more in higher education. The 2024 state budget included $100 million more in MAP grants for in-state students and $80 million in direct funding for the universities.

“Once again, Illinois is bucking national trends and exceeding expectations with the third consecutive year of freshman enrollment growth at our public universities,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said. “Our state’s higher education systems are bouncing back better than ever—a testament to smart fiscal management and a state budget that includes the largest increase for higher education in twenty-years and an all-time high for in-state scholarships.”

The state is also highlighting more Latino and African-American freshman are enrolled at Illinois public universities. Freshman enrollment for African American students increased by 2.9% in Illinois while facing a national decrease of 5.1%. Enrollment for Latino freshman increased by 6.9% at Illinois universities while decreased by 6.3% nationwide.

“The enrollment increases of African American and Latino students are direct results of the equity work the state’s higher education system as a whole is doing to attract more students of color,” IBHE Executive Director Ginger Ostro said. “We are excited for what is ahead for our state’s higher education system as we continue to work with the state’s public institutions to implement strategies from the equity-centered strategic plan.”

University of Illinois-Springfield Director of Admission Kathryn Kleeman says the numbers show a rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When school shut down in March of 2020, we had a lot of students who were still relying on guidance counselor support to help them through finishing their college search process,” Kleeman said. “They didn’t have all that support that they were planning on perhaps. So we saw some a number of students who kind of disappeared from higher education that fall.”

IBHE’s full report can be found on the agency’s website.