DEKALB, Ill. (AP) — An almost 30 percent increase in international students has helped Northern Illinois University record its lowest drop in enrollment in five years.

NIU announced in a news release Wednesday that its fall enrollment is 20,611 — a 2.49 percent decrease from 2013.

The total number of new freshmen dropped after two years of increases, and the number of new transfer students also fell. But the overall decline was not as sharp as in previous years because of the increased number of international students and better retention of last year's freshmen.

NIU President Doug Baker said international programs will be an important component of the university's enrollment strategy.

"It is gratifying to see the uptick in our retention of students from their first-to-second years, especially given the attention and effort we have put toward improving retention over the course of the last year," he said.

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