NIU needs to adopt more realistic goals

By Northern Star Editorial Board

NIU spokesman Paul Palian said Vision 2020’s goals  — improved enrollment in quantity and quality and higher retention and graduation rates, among other things — are still benchmarks for the university, but they are “constantly being reviewed … reevaluated” by administrators.

But, they should be tossed out and a new plan presented to the university community so we have more realistic expectations and a clear path to meet NIU’s goals.

Vision 2020, which calls for enrollment of 30,000 students by 2020, has always seemed unattainable to the Editorial Board.

In September 2010, just days after the plan was announced, the Editorial Board wrote, “But nothing good will come from everyone drinking the same Kool-Aid; NIU needs to adapt if it turns out that a particular goal is either immeasurable or impossible.”

That advice hasn’t been taken and Vision 2020’s goals have not been reevaluated, even though enrollment continues to plummet — including a 3.3 percent drop to 21,138 from fall 2012 to fall 2013.

Rather than reverse the plan, Baker should create a new one. It’s his first year as NIU’s president, and he has a leadership team that’s largely new and open to ideas. This is the best time for his administration to change NIU.

Vision 2020’s goals are headed in the right direction with their focus on student success and upping enrollment.

Let’s continue to focus on those areas, but set more realistic benchmarks and detail how we will hit those points: Student success will be defined by every student having a job in their field of interest within six months of graduation (as Baker called for during his inauguration), and that will be attained by providing every student with an alumnus mentor and helping them gain internships and find employers before graduating, for example.

Another area to emphasize: Enrollment. NIU must focus on retention and bringing in transfers, since fewer freshmen are going to universities across the state.

NIU should have an enrollment of 25,000 by 2020 — that reflects statewide falling enrollment while giving us something to work for.

How will we reach that goal? The university should provide more scholarships to upperclassmen, transfers and non-traditional students, make it easier for credits to transfer over and introduce transfers to NIU in the same way we do freshmen instead of treating them like seasoned Huskies.

Again we’ll warn: NIU must stop sipping the Vision 2020 Kool-Aid and create a plan with realistic goals and detailed steps for hitting those marks.