Northern Illinois University’s director of Admissions took part in a panel of national experts this week for a webinar hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Quinton Clay joined enrollment representatives from three other regions for “College Enrollment and Access in the Age of Crisis,” offered by The Chronicle to professionals in higher education on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. More than 1,700 attendees registered for the virtual event, which featured the following panelists in addition to Clay:
- Tara Miller, Director of the College & Career Center, Stephen F. Austin High School.
- Andrew Palumbo, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
- Kasey Urquidez, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, University of Arizona.
Clay, who has become known as a change-maker in the two years he’s led the team enrolling new Huskies, shared some of the ways NIU has nimbly adapted — and innovated — in the midst of a pandemic and recession.
“I’m so proud of all of the wonderful work done by colleagues from every corner and unit at NIU,” Clay said following the event. “In hearing the questions and responses, it was clear that we’re doing an excellent job supporting our students.”
Chronicle senior writer Eric Hoover moderated the webinar, enlisting the panel to answer questions, examine lessons learned and provide guidance on a path ahead for higher education. Like NIU, institutions everywhere are eager to apply takeaways for recruitment, enrollment and access following an uncertain, disruptive year.
As practices across college campuses have shifted, admissions teams have been on the front line of communications to a new class of students and families forced to forgo a traditional college search process with college fairs and campus visits. Clay shared examples of successes at NIU, which have included hosting virtual events, continuing housing and dining support for Huskies, offering a student emergency fund, providing access to equipment and software, removing holds from student accounts and more.
“With the pandemic, we are all arrested in a conversation about all the different things student support means,” Clay said. “The Huskies and families we serve come from different communities and realities, which has required carefully listening and actively responding to their unique needs. While some of our students may have access to public health programs, others need the basic resources of food, shelter and a safe environment that our campus can provide.”
As the university looks ahead to fall 2021, NIU will keep moving forward on an access-minded mission to serve students — with continuing financial aid programs like the Huskie Pledge and enhanced Merit Scholarships, as well as test-blind admissions requiring no application fee.
“I think there was this gulf between where we thought our jobs stopped and where we expected students and families to meet us,” Clay said. “But we are increasingly embracing their hardships as our issues to solve, pushing back that perimeter of access and getting closer to meeting them where they are.”