Board of Trustees supports Weldy’s request for $814K for enrollment consulting

By Jackie Nevarez

Eric Weldy, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, requested approval at Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting for $814,000 in consulting fees to a group that would help NIU boost enrollment and retention.

The Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management conducted a failed national search to fill the vacant associate vice president for enrollment management position, Weldy said. Enrollment Management identified Lipman Hearne as an option to help the department’s shorthanded staff in a time of prospective student recruitment, Weldy said.

Chicago-based Lipman Hearne specializes in marketing and communication, according to its website, and would assist NIU in creating an enrollment growth playbook and identifying retention enhancement opportunities, as well as providing consultation on branding in traditional and digital communications, according to the Board of Trustees agenda.

Consulting fees would add up to $150,000, which would include the enrollment growth playbook and Lipman Hearne personnel, said Provost Lisa Freeman. An estimated $664,000 would be set for deliverables at NIU’s discretion and marketing and identifying new students, Weldy said.

Trustee Cherilyn Murer said she was greatly concerned about the large amount of money requested and said she was curious about the continuation of a search to fill the open position in Enrollment Management while committing to the $150,000 contract.

“The branding issue, in my expectation, was going through the vice president of communications and marketing priority, that was my understanding,” Murer said. “They are certainly a highly reputable firm, there is no doubt about that … if we find [an associate vice president for enrollment management position] we’re still committed to that $150,000.”

Weldy said Enrollment Management has gone without a full staff for close to two and a half years, and operations must be strengthened before Weldy can conduct another search for the vacant position.

“I really don’t like … hiring a firm to come in or a consultant to come in, but … the situation that we’re in is not unusual. Other institutions throughout the state are going through this and they have done extra things that are needed in order to get over the hump, and so that’s what we’re doing here,” Weldy said.

The Board of Trustees voted to approve a motion in support of the proposal.