Board approves negotiating $20M partnership

By Jessie Kern

DeKALB — The Board of Trustees voted Wednesday and unanimously approved NIU entering into a partnership with Wiley Education Services—once final terms are negotiated—with the goal of expanding enrollment for online programs.
The partnership’s initial three-year term will span from Feb. 1 to Dec. 31, 2021, at an expected cost of $20,210,972, or $6,736,990 annually. University officials will also have the opportunity to initiate up to two, one-year renewals with Wiley Education Services, according to the Board of Trustees Jan. 10 special meeting report.
NIU President Lisa Freeman said it is understood she will report to the Board once the final agreement with Wiley Education Services is executed, and if the agreement deviates from the goals initially outlined in the report, the agreement will be returned to the Board for consideration of modifying the proposal.
“NIU support for online and off-campus students and programs was identified through our program prioritization process as in need of transformation,” Freeman said. “Particularly, the need to look at seeking a partner specifically to provide market demand analysis, recruit need generation and concierge services for online student support to grow enrollment.”

Related: Program prioritization continues

Freeman said the partnership will start with six pre-existing online programs: Master of Science in nursing, Master of Science in data analytics, Master of public health, Master of Science in digital marketing, Bachelor of Science in nursing for RN and the Doctorate of nursing practitioner.
“These were identified as the best place to start based on public demand,” Freeman said.
Jason Rhode, executive director of extended learning and assistant professor of instructional technology in the Department of Educational Technology Research and Assessment, will be responsible for overseeing the installation of Wiley Education Services.
“As we think about year one, those initial programs we selected, the programs that we begin marketing efforts now, to impact Fall of ‘19 enrollment, that’s our immediate focus,” Rhode said.

Related: Program prioritization has $16.1 million impact on university

Rhode said Wiley Education Services recommends nine months on the market before introducing the programs, and starting on Feb. 1 is “pushing the envelope.” He said in March they will likely be beginning discussions for phase two, and potentially have additional programs to introduce as early as the Spring 2020 semester.
Freeman said by fiscal year 2020 it is expected the revenue for the six programs, after expenses, to be $2.1 million, which is a $1.2 million increase from the current revenue of those primary programs. She said the revenue for the same six programs is then expected to increase to $7.1 million in year three, and $11.4 million in year four.
“Between year one and year two our costs go from $640,000 to $2.5 million, but our return on investment goes from $1.2 million to $7.1 million, so obviously the return is exceeding the increased costs,” Freeman said.
Acting Provost Chris McCord said in year one NIU is basically getting a $2 return for every $1 invested, and then a $5 return for every $1 invested by year three.
Dennis Barsema, Board of Trustees vice chair, questioned the possibility of investing more with Wiley Education Services. 

Related: Board approves partnership with Northwestern Medicine to assume management of Health Services

McCord said Wiley Education Services discouraged officials from introducing more than six programs in year one, indicating six programs is an ambitious goal. He said once the programs in year one are successful, officials will look to phase two to add new programs.

“The border line was actually constructed, not just capacity to launch phase two but to grow into more ambitious undertakings,” McCord said.