IBHE asks for money to analyze Northern

By Stephanie Bradley

The Illinois Board of Higher Education has requested $100,000 for fiscal year 1990 from the Illinois General Assembly for the assessment of NIU.

Bob Wheeler, assessment steering committee chairman, said the purpose of assessment is to measure whether NIU is providing an adequate academic and social atmosphere for undergraduates. The NIU Undergraduate Catalog lists qualities a student should have when he has completed his undergraduate studies. These include logical thinking, an ability to use modern technology and “mature interpersonal behavior in various settings.”

Wheeler said the IBHE encouraged state universities three years ago to assess their students, and only Illinois State University has implemented an assessment program.

Wheeler said ISU’s program involves students completing an ACT-like test. The test has been very controversial because not all students have taken the courses which would enable them to score well on the exam, he said, adding that NIU has no plans to administer such a test to its students.

Advising students on the general education courses they should take and offering an orientation class to help new students schedule courses are ways to improve students’ college experience, he said. However, “we don’t have the resources to advise students,” he said.

Wheeler also suggested measuring what general education courses students take, the order in which they are taken and why they take those classes. He said assessment could begin this spring.

NIU’s Public Opinion Laboratory conducted a phone survey of 800 students for the NIU student affairs office in 1984 which gave an overview of NIU. The questions asked included why students selected NIU, students’ financial resources, housing, major, use and rating of NIU services, time use and personal concerns. Wheeler said he hopes to conduct another similar survey soon.

The survey “is a powerful tool to bring about change,” Wheeler said. The results would relate to “how students themselves have changed,” he said. Alcohol awareness was one of the programs which came out of the 1984 survey, Wheeler said.

NIU’s Assessment Task Force was allocated $40,000 to address the lack of a system for student assessment of general education courses and the university experience, Task Force Member Jim Ruzicka said.

The task force was given the funds to determine the education a student should get—not only academic, but social, he said. The committee is trying to “fulfill the needs of the university and the Illinois Board of Higher Education,” he said.

Ruzicka said the committee has begun to have “rap sessions” in the residence halls to ask on-campus residents their opinions of NIU’s academic programs and services. He said the committee has not yet found a way to meet with off-campus students.

The committee’s main concern is with general education courses. “What general education classes students want and what they get (due to closed classes) are two different things,” he said.