In Focus: How should we attract students to NIU?

On Thursday, the NIU Board of Trustees took the next step in constructing a new residence hall on campus. As NIU President John Peters has said, NIU needs to be able to compete with other universities.

For this week’s “In Focus,” various Northern Star columnists and editors will weigh in on this question: What is the best way NIU can increase retention and recruitment rates?

Adam Brown, columnist: The breadth of academic programs and extracurricular activities Northern has to offer is impressive, and yet this is rarely stressed. Along with that, NIU can boast of its highly distinguished, specialized programs: Southeast Asian studies and its number of under-represented language courses, the emphasis on biopolitics–an exciting and emerging new field–and our school of education. These and others like them ought to be marketed with force to attract more committed students from across the country, and increase the university’s overall national prestige.

Phil Case, columnist: The reputation of NIU as a suitcase college hurts both recruitment and retention rates. If students are looking forward to going home every weekend and dreading coming back to campus because they have associated DeKalb with school and hometowns with weekend fun, then their desire to come back is going to eventually wear down. The university needs to schedule more weekend activities that will encourage students to stay and cultivate a campus community. This will help retain current students, which will build NIU’s reputation and attract new students who not only want to be a part of, but also add to such an atmosphere.

Jessica Jenks, columnist: By highlighting the success of alumni, Northern can increase retention and recruitment rates. Students want proof that after completing their education here, they can have a rewarding career in the field of their choice. By seeing examples of people who were once in the same classes, worked toward the same degree, and are now working in the students dream job; it gives hope and helps keep the end goal in mind. Although, as someone who lived in the dorms for three years, I can say a new residence hall will definitely not hurt.

Portia Kerr-Newman, columnist: The NIU administration must determine the reasons students choose to leave the university. Students leave for various financial reasons. Most students rely on financial aid to pay for tuition. Often, financial aid will not cover all the charges. Since work-study jobs are scarce on campus and in the DeKalb area, it makes it hard to pay for tuition. Increasing financial aid could help students pay for school. Some students may struggle with professor teaching methods. Class may be too short or the professor may speed through lectures. With longer classes and in-depth teaching styles students can learn more proficiently.

Kathryn Minniti, columnist: The best way NIU can increase retention and recruitment rates is if they actually build a new residence hall that looks more modern, fun and even allow students to redecorate or plan out the decorations for each wing. We should allow individuality to be shown in our residence halls. Halls should be redecorated every 10 years to stay with the current time of the students. NIU should allow students to bring up ideas of what classes should be created to be able to take at NIU. We should have elevators in our dorm buildings and bigger and better lounges so it helps students socialize and want to be in there to either study or watch some TV. Last but not least, there should be better advising here at NIU, like some type of informational website or notice that comes to me to allow us to see what is going on and what is expected for you to be accomplishing at this moment. It is very hard to get in contact with some administrative people here.

Logan Short, columnist: Constructing a new residence hall when enrollment is down seems like an odd thing for thing for the Board of Trustees to sign off on. The fact that it will be a fresh new building to show off, though, might not be so odd after all. I’m not sure how a fancy new building will draw in a significant amount of more people, but the location of the building might. I think one thing that is appealing about a campus is when it’s integrated into the city. When you drive through a university that is set up like this, the city seems alive on a school day because students are walking around not just the campus, but around the city streets and businesses. If NIU were able to find somewhere to constructs the new residence hall on the eastern, south side of campus, I believe both the city of DeKalb and the university would benefit.

Taurean Small, columnist: NIU should invest in the town instead of its campus. The truth is DeKalb’s biggest attraction is Target. Maybe if we added some appealing landscape (both for prospective students and to longtime residences) students would have a reason to stay. Personally, I would not mind seeing a few shopping malls, fine dining restaurants, and a maybe some building renovations.