20.12.12

GETTING THE MODEL RIGHT

The current Northern Illinois University strategic plan (which might be as ephemeral as a Hollywood marriage, with a presidential search under way) envisions a substantial increase in enrollments, both among high-ranking recent graduates of high schools, and among online students of all types.  Those plans are getting a boost from the Orange Bowl invitation.
NIU’s Office of Admissions saw a 19.3 percent increase over last year in applications submitted between Dec. 3 and Dec. 5, the days immediately after the Dec. 2 announcement that the Huskies football team is headed to Miami for the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1.

Director of Admissions Kimberley Buster-Williams said the bump was noticeable because there was more activity than they usually see at that time. They have been conducting tours on Saturdays and have extended some hours until the holiday break.
Participants in those tours have shifted their focus recently.
[Student ambassador Peetee] Guerrero gives tours to prospective students. She said some of them are not really interested in the football team, “but towards the end of the semester, all they wanted to talk about was our football team.”
There's historical evidence that interest in a university follows football prominence with a lag. Our admissions managers note a pattern that emerged at Boston College nearly thirty years ago.
The Flutie Effect, named for Doug Flutie of Boston College and his game-winning touchdown pass in 1984, is a phenomenon in which a college receives more applications after their football team’s success.

Buster-Williams said the Flutie Effect will likely impact the university in academic year 2014-15. History shows that colleges see a slight bump the year after bowl bids, but it is the year after when it will have a bigger impact, she said.
Boston College is a relatively small Catholic university in Boston, also able to attract applicants with home town honeys enrolled at Harvard or on occasion MIT, and able to hire place-bound Harvard or MIT graduates or trailing spouses of Harvard or MIT faculty or benefit by trailing spouses hiring out at the branch University of Massachusetts campuses or Tufts or Brandeis or Simmons.

Northern Illinois University is a largish ethnically Catholic, state-supported (the more jaded will say state-tolerated or state-hampered) university outside the metropolitan Chicago area, without benefit of commuter trains.  Football-inspired enrollment in quest of beer-'n-circus may not be best for our campus.

It matters, though, that we get it right.  There are a lot more students enrolled in upwardly mobile Compass Point State universities than there are in the Ivies, or the Catholic institutions with or without basketball or football, or in the state flagships.  Notionally, the policy within each state is to ensure a place somewhere in the state university system to graduates in good standing of the high schools in the states, and the upwardly mobile and converted teachers' colleges ought not be viewed as consolation prizes for high school seniors who didn't make the cut at their state's flagship institution.  The athletic department might view football as the front porch to the university.  What goes on in the kitchen and the rumpus room and the study also matters.

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