Turn Master Plan Thesis into action

In the wake of declining enrollment, it is time NIU informs the community of a clear plan to attract and retain students.

One of the main purposes of NIU President Doug Baker’s Master Plan Thesis is to increase enrollment and retention. The project has a name and destination; much less publicized is the university’s way of getting to this end. There must be a clear plan with deadlines and goals to increase enrollment and retention.

Eric Weldy, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, did not provide an enrollment number the university could work toward after last year’s numbers were released, according to a Sept. 12, 2013, Northern Star article.

“I’ll say this: I’ve been here a couple of months and we’re under new leadership with President Baker, and I think as an institution this is a great time for us to reassess where we are with enrollment and where we want to be in the next five or 10 years,” Weldy said. “I don’t want to identify a specific number of where we would like to be.”

Granted, Baker and Weldy started at NIU after the creation of Vision 2020, a plan introduced under former President John Peters with a goal to have 30,000 students enrolled by 2020. With a drop in enrollment of 2,379 students between 2011 — when the plan was introduced — and this fall, just staying afloat by 2020 could prove to be overly idealistic.

That’s not to say progress isn’t being made. The amount of international students rose from 847 last fall to 1,090. There are plans to increase recruitment and retention through signing reverse transfer agreements with five local community colleges, with more to come, among other strategies.

The university needs to be bold and make its plans as transparent as possible by clearly laying out its enrollment expectations, deadlines and goals. That means numbers, budgets and analyses of how effective each plan is in terms of accomplishing each goal.

That also means acknowledging the impact of a big loss in the midst of small victories.