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First students graduate from NIU-Harper College partnership

July 19, 2021

NIU and Harper College achieved a milestone recently as the first students graduated from degree completion programs offered through the University Center at Harper College.

Nineteen students are now proud Huskie alumni thanks to the partnership. Nine students graduated with degrees in psychology and computer science along with one student that earned a degree in marketing.

Equally impressive is the academic record of the newly-minted alumni. Of the 18 students graduating with degrees from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, six students graduated with 4.0 GPAs and eight others finished with GPAs above 3.5.

“I’m incredibly proud of the wonderful collaboration between NIU and Harper and the goals we’re helping our students achieve,” said NIU President Lisa C. Freeman. “I look forward to celebrating more graduates from this partnership and seeing them succeed in their careers.”

The University Center at Harper College launched in Fall 2019 and is an exclusive partnership between Harper College, NIU, DePaul University and Roosevelt University which provides a unique opportunity to earn both an associate and bachelor’s degree on Harper’s campus. This pathway helps increase the number of bachelor degree completers while reducing overall cost. NIU offers bachelor degree programs in Computer Science, Psychology and Marketing.

The Center meets students where they are geographically, attracting students who may not traditionally consider partner institutions due to balancing jobs and other responsibilities. Students enrolled in NIU programs at the University Center qualify for scholarships and can access the same student services as those taking classes in DeKalb.

As of this Spring, NIU had 112 students enrolled in degree programs offered through the University Center. Student retention has persisted over 90% since the inaugural Fall 2019 semester.

“This program has grown as a result of collaboration between Harper College and many units within NIU,” said Ron Smith, Director of Community College Partnerships. “We couldn’t have arrived at this milestone without the support of the faculty and advisors from the College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as the Office of Admissions.”

“Transfer admissions counselor Brenda Powell worked tirelessly on the front lines and assisted Harper students throughout the admission process,” Smith added.

Smith said despite the challenges associated with the pandemic, interest in the program has remained steady while the number of inquiries grows.

“Not every student is planning to start right away,” Smith explained. “Some students are connecting with us early in their journey to earn their associate’s degree. We know that time, money and flexibility are key influencers in a student’s  pathway to bachelor degree completion and this partnership addresses each of those concerns head on.”

Early inquiries are actually preferred, since it allows Harper advisors to work with the student to ensure all required prerequisites are met, resulting in a seamless transfer to NIU.

“The advisors from Harper and NIU work together extremely well, and that translates into the success students have in our programs, he added. “This piece of the partnership had to be built from the ground up.”

Making sure University Center students have access to academic support services, such as the library and tutoring, is something of paramount importance.

“We want to give students the tools they need to succeed,” Smith said.

Courses for NIU have been exclusively online due to the pandemic and will remain that way for Fall 2021. The University Center will resume a combination of face to face and online courses for the Spring 2022 semester.