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NIU outlines key initiatives in town hall meetings

January 29, 2015

BakerQASpring-Town-HallCiting a trend of declining enrollment and diminishing state support, Northern Illinois University President Douglas Baker outlined key initiatives of the administration meant to give the university greater control over its own future at two university-wide town hall meetings Thursday afternoon.

Baker pointed to collaboration between Academic Affairs, Enrollment Management, Marketing & Communications and an external partner, Lipman Hearne, as key to bolstering recruitment efforts. The university is focusing in the short term on positively impacting the current recruitment cycle by concentrating on three segments: stop-outs, who drop out of college and later re-enroll; admitted students that did not enroll; and those who showed interest in NIU but never applied.

RecruitingPartnershipHe said NIU had some success with that prior to the start of the current semester, but the spring 10-day enrollment fell to 19,000, a 2.6 percent decrease from spring 2014.

“The fall-to-spring retention percentage remained consistent with the average rate over the past five years,” Baker said, noting the five year average retention rate has been 87 percent. “Spring enrollment is a function of the fall 10-day count, and while the rate is consistent, there are several things we are working on to improve both recruitment and retention.”

According to Vice Provost Anne Birberick, the following  tools are also being deployed widely across campus to improve retention:

  • MAP-Works early intervention tool used to help faculty and staff assist students in their transition to college, identify students who may be at risk and connect them with campus resources;
  • First-Year Composition peer advocates that have been shown to improve return rate by helping students with study habits and social integration; and
  • High-Impact Practices (HIPs), which include common intellectual experiences, learning communities, undergraduate research, service learning and capstone courses and projects among others.

ItTakesaUniversity“Students who participate in MAP-Works return to NIU,” Birberick said. “The data shows they earn a higher GPA and successfully complete additional courses as a result of the additional support and assistance they receive. I encourage students to take the final MAP-Works survey, which begins Friday and runs through Feb. 23.”

It takes a whole university to graduate a student, and with that in mind, President Baker recognized participants in NIU’s “Ask me…I can help you” campaign. NIU faculty and staff have a common goal to help students prepare for student career success, and every employee has the ability to make a difference for a student.

Finally, Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Freeman discussed the means the university would take to align resources towards strategic goals to promote excellence and value. Program prioritization is a data-informed methodology undertaken by approximately 50 percent of surveyed public institutions to connect academic and administrative programs.

Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Freeman discusses the NIU program prioritization process at a Jan. 29 town hall meeting.

Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Freeman discusses the NIU program prioritization process at a Jan. 29 town hall meeting.

She said the program would be guided by the principles that every program would be examined, with “no sacred cows,” and that all employee contracts would be honored while students would be allowed to finish academic programs if the process determines a change is necessary.

“This isn’t any different than what we are already doing now,” Freeman said.

While the criteria is still to be determined, 10 possible criteria from Robert Dickeson’s Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services were put forth in addition to a smaller group of possible alternative criteria that have been used at other campuses.

Employees are encouraged to get involved in the program prioritization process by participating in a criteria survey, think about people with a “trustee mentality” for task force nominations and to consider new or reimagined programs to put forth during the process.

Many questions were presented at the town hall meeting, but not all were answered due to time constraints. President Baker indicated additional questions could be directed to him via email at [email protected] Questions will be answered in the FAQ section of the president’s website.