EDITORIAL | Emojis will not save enrollment

With the May 1 launch of an NIU emoji app, the Northern Star Editorial Board agrees the university should be commended for trying to reach out to freshmen in new ways, but there are better ways to spend $5,000 to reach potential students.

Enrollment at NIU has been steadily decreasing, and last year alone, the university saw a 5 percent drop in enrollment from 13,663 student in spring 2016, to 12,894 in spring 2017, according to a Sept. 15, 2016, Northern Star article. Losing a total of 1,022 students, the university’s enrollment status is lower now than it has been in over 30 years, which we feel is detrimental to the university’s credibility and resources.

As a result, the Editorial Board agrees the university’s attention and new efforts to attract prospective students are necessary, but emojis are not the way to gain the attention of these students. The resources and time devoted to the new app seem like they are not achieving the goals set out to, despite being downloaded 1,815 times, according to an Aug. 28 Freedom of Information Act submitted by the Northern Star.

One of the many goals when launching the app was to create a sense of inclusion among incoming students as well as current students and alumni, according to a Sept. 7 Northern Star article. Receiving 20 percent more engagement with the app than others produced by Visixtwo, the company that created it, it seems students who have the app are using it, but the app has not been advertised well leaving many students unaware it even exists.

“I didn’t know about the app until just now,” undecided freshman Jill Harmston said. “Now that I do know, I think it’s a good way to boost school spirit, but if that was the reason I decided to go to a college I don’t think I should be going.”

Harmston’s opinion reflects the opinion of the Editorial Board, which is that the biggest problem is the goals in mind when members of the Division of Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications were creating the app. Even if it was to gain more attention on campus, it is a far stretch to think emojis could persuade a student to attend NIU rather than some other university.

A second and more realistic goal in mind when creating the app was the idea of promoting Huskie pride and encouraging students to use the emojis as part of the Red and Black Fridays campaign, according to a Sept. 7 Northern Star article. This seems more likely, despite the fact the app has only been downloaded by nearly 2,000 students, according to a Sept. 7 Northern Star article.

Whether or not the app is effectively convincing students to come to NIU cannot be determined until enrollment numbers are updated, but the Editorial Board thinks there are better, more effective ways to reach students. While the idea of specialized emojis for the university is fun, it seems to be less about reaching new students and more about giving current students something new to play with.