NIU aims to release new enrollment plan in 2022

The+NIU+Huskie+Pride+Statue+and+Holmes+Student+Center+are+recognizable+landmarks+to+help+new+students+find+their+way+around+campus.

Northern Star File Photo

The NIU Huskie Pride Statue and Holmes Student Center are recognizable landmarks to help new students find their way around campus.

Elisa Reamer, News Reporter

DeKALB — By 2020, NIU originally set a goal of having 30,000 students enrolled in the Vision 2020 plan. Since dropping that plan to reflect a new five-year plan from 2019-2023, the university now has an enrollment goal of 17,735 students by Fall 2023 in its Strategic Enrollment Management Plan but aims to release a new enrollment plan next year to reflect COVID-19.

In the original Vision 2020 plan, former NIU President John Peters said an increase in enrollment is necessary to generate revenue to improve the academic climate at the university, according to the NIU Today website

The previous 10-year Vision 2020 plan was a very aspirational goal, Sol Jensen, vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communications, said. 

The current strategic plan is composed of three goals that have two strategies and then objectives that are measurable outcomes. 

“It’s going to impact the number of first-year students that enroll,” Jensen said. “I think that’s where having that plan and really being successful and accomplishing so many of those tactics over these first three years has really helped us to get to where we are right now.”

NIU set a goal of 17,005 enrolled students for the Fall 2021 semester. Currently, total enrollment is at 16,234 students for the fall semester, which is a 3% decrease since fall 2020, according to a Northern Star article.

NIU looks at several aspects when coming up with the projection goals. They first come up with a goal of new students then see how many students stay enrolled each year. Jensen said NIU has to come up with projections of how many students will graduate each year as well. 

Jensen believes the impact of COVID-19 is to blame for the decrease in enrollment for Fall 2021 due to first-year students not returning. 

“Many of our new first-year students didn’t have the typical connections that they would have with the campus, their professors, even with classmates, and trying to make that adjustment, I think, was quite a challenge for them,” Jensen said. 

The campus is working on a new strategic enrollment management plan that should be released by Feb. 1 to adjust to the pandemic, Jensen said. 

“One of the things that we learned is that we can be more flexible and really make some policy and procedural changes that were very positive for our student benefits,” Jensen said. “While we are still working through many of the different initiatives in the current plan, we are working on a new plan that’s going to be more updated because of the fact that the pandemic has really impacted the day-to-day work.” 

Jensen pointed out that they are not at the point of saying what their official goals or strategies are yet in the new plan. 

“COVID impacted us in such a way that it threw a lot of those projections,” Jensen said. “There are certain things that are a little bit more in control than others, and the projections are one piece of several that is just a reason why the whole plan needs to be redone because COVID has definitely impacted that.”

To increase student enrollment, NIU has eliminated the need for the ACT and SAT scores for merit scholarships, made the application free, added the university to the Common App, implemented the AIM HIGH program through funding from the state of Illinois and the Huskie Pledge to allow students from low-income households to waive tuition costs, Jensen said.