Vision 2020 needs to offer better incentives for students

By Editorial Board

In Thursday’s paper, the Northern Star’s editorial board said it will address NIU’s plan to increase enrollment to 30,000 students by 2020. Vision 2020 boasts many positive additions to the campus; but the board feels this initiative fails to identify several important areas necessary to attracting the proposed number.

In order to attract more students, NIU should offer better incentives outside of the proposed increase in scholarships. Scholarships are good for baiting prospective freshmen, but with what will NIU reel them in?

We suggest NIU provides students with some indication of job assurance upon graduation. NIU Career Services is good for preparing students professionally for life after college, but lacks an effective job placement program. Helping students with a resume isn’t enough; freshmen need to be comfortable in knowing the degree they’re spending at least four years to get will be worthwhile after graduating.

Career Services’ annual job fair might be a step in the right direction if it had a more diverse pool of employers. There always seem to be significantly fewer job opportunities offered for non-business majors. Students shouldn’t have to settle outside of their career path just because there wasn’t employment represented in their major at the fair.

Another one of NIU’s goals is to attract not only more students, but “higher quality” students.

But how does NIU plan to attract “higher quality” students? Brian Hemphill, vice president of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management, said over 3,000 students who scored a 28 on their ACT applied to NIU last year, but only 115 attended. Part of the problem is NIU’s University Honors Program.

While the program offers many opportunities for enrichment, social activities and more, it needs a thorough academic revamp. In its current state, the program lacks a clear curriculum and needs stronger advising.

NIU’s honors program should be able to define what separates an honor student from a regular student. An honor student’s class should be catered accordingly. Does requiring a student to do an additional paper for classes filled with regularly enrolled students really justify the title of honor student? NIU should offer more honors-only sections or at least require more of the honor student enrolled in a normal class.

What the honors program does well is provide an ample amount of social opportunities for students. We feel this is the program’s shining area, but there should be an equal amount of attention placed on both academic and social aspects of the program.

The program also offers peer advising for honors students. Peer advising is fine as a supplement, but students need professional guidance when navigating through a rigorous educational program.

But then again, NIU has a history of offering less-than-adequate advising for students.

The problem doesn’t necessary lie in the staff doing the advising, but in their lack of communication with their respective departments. A typical student with one major and one minor has to see three different advisers each semester. In some cases, what one adviser says conflicts with what another one already said. This leads to an inordinate amount of confusion, especially for the students who rely on those people for guidance. Once clear communication from departments becomes more common, NIU will be able to bolster stronger advising services.

We think NIU has a chance of meeting its goal in 2020 if the university makes adjustments in the aforementioned areas. If the right incentives are offered, NIU could see an increase in both quantity and quality of students.