As the Northern Illinois University football team prepares for another appearance on the national stage in the MAC Football Championship in Detroit, NIU’s leadership in academic and student initiatives is also on display this week on a national scale.
On Wednesday, we announced the findings of our Presidential Task Force on the Violence Against Women Act, which identified actionable steps for increasing awareness of the national issue of sexual assault while enhancing our approach to campus safety.
In direct response to the White House call to action on the issue, NIU is among the first in the nation to take such steps. The recommendations contained in the report will further strengthen programs for reporting and response to sexual assault that include confidential advocacy, referral and support to NIU students affected by sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. They also significantly expand prevention and education efforts and strengthen community partnerships.
By implementing the recommendations of the task force members, we hope to further strengthen our university culture and our approach to public safety. NIU is determined to use the task force recommendations to reinforce our commitment to a safe campus environment, where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
Another key White House initiative is expanding access to higher education and improving educational outcomes at the college and university levels, and again, NIU has demonstrated leadership. On Thursday, I was pleased to lead a delegation of community college, K-12 schools and workforce partners from our Regional P-20 Network to Washington, D.C. to participate via a special invitation in the White House College Opportunity Day of Action. The event brought together hundreds of education and business leaders to support students across the country to help the nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment.
The Northern Illinois P-20 Network was established to improve college and career success for our students through regional collaboration and consists of 26 educational institutions in northern Illinois, including NIU and eight regional community college partners, 10 school districts and seven statewide education agencies and advocacy organizations.
Our group made six commitments to advance our goals of making a quality education more accessible in an effort to increase the proportion of Illinois adults with a postsecondary credential to 60 percent by 2025.
Given the importance of holding the line on the cost of college to the critical issue of college access, it was fitting that, on that same day, the NIU Board of Trustees approved a new NIU tuition structure that promotes value and incentivizes completion while dropping the published cost of attendance for incoming students next year.
The new structure means incoming students will pay the same tuition cost if they take 12 credit hours, 15 hours or 18 or more hours. In fact, a new student enrolled in 16 hours will pay about $200 less in tuition in fall 2015 than fall 2014. It also drops the per-credit-hour tuition cost for returning students to about $330 with a cap of tuition and fee charges at 14 credit hours.
The events over the past week demonstrate in very definitive ways that NIU is committed to affordability, retention and completion—and enabling students to learn in a safe, caring environment. Working individually on our own issues of affordability and safety while working collectively in our region and communities with other concerned partners, we can create a more favorable environment for increasing access to a high-quality education while enhancing the conditions for achieving student career success.