Spring enrollment falls to 19K, retention goes down

Senior English major Leena Alousie studies Wednesday in the Holmes Student Center’s College Grind. Alousie said she doesn’t know anyone who has dropped out since last semester, but she thinks NIU’s affordability plays a “big” reason in students’ decision to leave. NIU’s retention and enrollment fell from spring 2014 to this semester, according to figures released at University Council Wednesday.

By Jackie Nevarez

Retention between the fall and spring has decreased 1.2 percent to 87 percent, a number that slightly shocked NIU President Doug Baker, who said there are a lot of good things underway.

Eric Weldy, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, announced the enrollment and retention numbers at Wednesday’s University Council meeting, where he said the overall retention rate is equal to the average retention of the past five years. The retention rate is down 1.2 percent from 88.2 percent last year, although other numbers have seen improvement. The new transfer retention from fall to spring was at 90 percent, which is on par with the average of 89 percent with the past four years.

The enrollment for this semester is 19,000, a decrease of 507 students from spring 2014.

“This has pretty much been the norm as it relates to other state institutions,” Weldy said. “So, starting to collect some information, I know the president has had some contact with some other presidents in regards to where they are for this spring.”

Weldy told University Council that Dani Rollins, who served as a senior associate dean of undergraduate admissions at Reed College in Portland, Ore., was hired as the director of admissions Jan. 12. Before her position at Reed College, Rollins spent most of her career at University of Arizona, Weldy said.

Rollins will communicate and schedule meetings directly with Lipman Hearne, a Chicago-based company that specializes in marketing and communication, which was hired in the fall to assist NIU in improving enrollment and retention efforts.

Weldy, along with his staff and Harlan Teller, Marketing and Communications interim vice president, met with Lipman Hearne prior to winter break, Weldy said.

NIU will pay about $150,000 to the group in fees for consultation, which would include creating an enrollment growth playbook and would cover the cost of Lipman Hearne personnel. An estimated $664,000 would be set for deliverables at NIU’s discretion, adding up to $814,000.

The consulting company advised Weldy to contact individuals who had inquired about applying, applied or left after a semester in good academic standing since 2008, but were no longer attending or graduating from NIU or any other university. Roughly 90,000 of those people were found to not be current students, Weldy said. An email blast asking the individuals to consider NIU with an application was sent to the 90,000 during winter break, Weldy said, which resulted in 44 applicants for the spring semester and 24 students enrolling for this semester.

Lipman Hearne will consult with Enrollment Management until the end of June.