DeKALB – Northern Illinois University might have faced some controversy in the past year, but student interest has never been higher.
More than 18,000 potential freshmen have applied to NIU for the 2013 fall semester – an 11 percent increase in the number of applications received at this time last year. The volume of applications is the most the university has ever received by this time.
Marc Strauss, who serves on the NIU Board of Trustees, said it would be “extremely important” to convert as many of those applications as possible into enrolled students. He praised university staff for focusing on student recruitment and blocking out external factors.
Strauss said outside factors whether good, such as the football team’s run to the Orange Bowl – or bad – such as the FBI sweep of university police records – should not affect NIU’s Vision 2020 Initiative goals.
“We have to continue to do the best job we can with the things that are in our control,” Strauss said. “We have our Vision 2020 target and we’d like to continue to make progress in that direction.”
The Vision 2020 goal aims to increase freshman enrollment from 2,800 to 3,393 students by 2020 while also increasing academic standards.
The hope is to raise the average ACT score of incoming freshmen from 21 to 23 and have a higher percentage of students who finished in the top 25 percent of their high school class attend NIU.
NIU spokesman Paul Palian said the goals are attainable if the faculty and staff continue to execute the programs and strategies they already have implemented.
Palian said more professors are involved with potential students in the recruitment process to make the experience more personalized, and events such as Transfer Tuesdays and Virtual Decision Day have made the application process easier.
Virtual Decision Day guarantees applicants who participate an acceptance decision within an hour.
“The most important aspect of increasing applications is the strong collaborative effort across campus,” Palian said. “Professors are taking a more hands-on role.”
Palian also said improvements to residence halls and the construction of an outdoor recreation sports complex make the university environment more attractive.
Cherilyn Murer, chairwoman for the NIU Board of Trustees, said the increase in applications shows the issues the university has faced in the past year – including charges being filed against employees and a federal investigation into the university police department – have not caused the public’s faith in the university as a strong educational institution.
“Obviously we’re delighted with this influx of interest in NIU,” Murer said. “I think this is reflective of the support and confidence that parents and students have in the quality of education being provided at NIU.”