The Northern Star produced a three-article report on the Illinois applicant pool and the matriculant pool at Northern Illinois.  The State of Illinois now requires all eleventh graders to take the ACT, and tax-supported test preparation seems to have a positive effect.  The applicant pool, statewide, looks stronger on paper, something that enrollment managers view favorably.
Brian Hemphill, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, also noted in an email interview that individual motivation impacts a student’s success in college.

On average, however, he said student quality impacts retention rates, graduation rates and overall student performance.

“I think it speaks to the overall NIU experience in that good students want to be here and we offer programs and service that appeal to those students,” said Kitty McCarthy, associate vice president for Enrollment Management.

Hemphill also said student quality is important to NIU because it will help with other Vision 2020 goals of increasing the number of students who study at NIU from locations in southern and central Illinois and will help increase overall enrollment.
Vision 2020 is the designation for the current strategic plan, at least until sufficient administrative interest in revision of the vision manifests itself (I'm not kidding with that phrasing, by the way).  The challenge facing Northern Illinois, as well as universities at the other cardinal points of the compass, and Illinois State and the  various branches of University of Illinois, is that each university currently has or currently plans to go after more of the academically stronger high school graduates.  But that pool is shrinking, and it's subject to precisely the same dynamic that depletes fisheries.
Over the past seven years, the number of students graduating high school each year in 23 Northern counties in Illinois has been increasing, according to the 2010-2011 NIU Fact Book. That number was expected to peak in 2011 at 132,129 students graduating, a 21.9 percent increase since 2004. The growth is projected to now slow through 2020, with fewer students graduating high school in Northern Illinois in 2020 than 2011.

The number of prospective students is not only declining in Northern Illinois - the number of public high school graduates in the Midwest is projected to decrease 6 percent between 2007 and 2020, according to a report released by the National Center for Education Statistics in September.

Kitty McCarthy, associate vice president for Enrollment Management, said NIU will see increased competition to recruit students because of the population decline.

“In Illinois, schools like NIU wanting to grow [are] competing for a shrinking pool, and then you combine that with some of the out-of-state and even for-profit competition, and it will be fierce,” she said.

McCarthy said universities have been preparing their recruitment strategies for this increased competition.

“This population decline has been on everyone’s radar,” she said. “... Everyone’s been in a building mode, and it’s going to continue.”
Whether the competition for stronger students will continue as the pool becomes smaller, or whether one of the universities will emphasize access in preference to other criteria for admission, or whether we will see another round of retrenchments, with retired or raided faculty not being replaced, is yet to be determined.


William Bruce said...

What is the ratio of Illinois students attending out-of-state institutions relative to admission of out-of-state students in Illinois, particularly for the typical state institution in Illinois?

I should possess some intuition here, having myself attended (state) university in Illinois, but must confess to not having the foggiest idea...

Stephen Karlson said...

Interesting question. I once came across a database that disaggregated enrollments by state for the flagship state universities. Illinois on net exports students to Madison and Ann Arbor (probably not surprising given the charms of Urbana). In the universe of regional comprehensives and converted normal schools, in any state, almost all the enrollment will originate from that state (again, not surprisingly, those institutions exist to provide a college opportunity to state residents). At Northern Illinois, an undergraduate from a state other than Illinois is very likely to play a sport or be in music or theater.