But only after having tried all the wrong things.  I have for a long time been skeptical of attempts by institutions of higher education to achieve what Historiann and Roxie's World refer to as excellence without money, and what I view as mindless management faddishness. "When the management fad was downsizing, somebody envisioned a 19,000 student university with an economics faculty of sixteen; enrollments currently exceed 24,000 with an economics faculty of nine, give me one reason to be cooperative."  That was in the fall of 2010.  The fall semester of 2014 is behind us, and enrollments at Northern Illinois look more like that nineteen than the twenty-four, or the hoped-for thirty thousand.
Retention between the fall and spring has decreased 1.2 percent to 87 percent, a number that slightly shocked NIU President Doug Baker, who said there are a lot of good things underway.
Headquarters will be doing the usual management thing.
[New director of admissions Dani] Rollins will communicate and schedule meetings directly with Lipman Hearne, a Chicago-based company that specializes in marketing and communication, which was hired in the fall to assist NIU in improving enrollment and retention efforts.

[Vice president of student affairs and enrollment management Eric] Weldy, along with his staff and Harlan Teller, Marketing and Communications interim vice president, met with Lipman Hearne prior to winter break, Weldy said.

NIU will pay about $150,000 to the group in fees for consultation, which would include creating an enrollment growth playbook and would cover the cost of Lipman Hearne personnel. An estimated $664,000 would be set for deliverables at NIU’s discretion, adding up to $814,000.

The consulting company advised Weldy to contact individuals who had inquired about applying, applied or left after a semester in good academic standing since 2008, but were no longer attending or graduating from NIU or any other university. Roughly 90,000 of those people were found to not be current students, Weldy said. An email blast asking the individuals to consider NIU with an application was sent to the 90,000 during winter break, Weldy said, which resulted in 44 applicants for the spring semester and 24 students enrolling for this semester.

Lipman Hearne will consult with Enrollment Management until the end of June.
For my colleagues' sake, I hope those 800 grand buy something smarter than "follow up with electronic mail" with a less than 1/1000 response rate.  A Nigerian spammer might view that yield favorably.  Their reality, however, is a decade of downsizing followed by another decade of downsizing.
Every program, from football to forensics, will face evaluation based on university priorities, [provost Lisa] Freeman said. NIU President Doug Baker and Freeman will use town hall meetings today to explain the goals of this process and how it will be conducted.

The program prioritization process will revolve around bringing programs in line with NIU’s mission and vision while honoring employees’ contracts and guaranteeing students can finish their academic programs, Freeman said.

“... This effort is to look at all of our programs ... and see are there places where we need to invest or are there places where we can shift resources to other things,” Baker said. “This is just a prioritization process to look at all that and see if our budget is in alignment with the work that we need to do to fulfill our mission.”

The process, which began with an exploration period in the fall, is set to last until spring 2016, when funding will be allocated for Fiscal Year 2017 based on program prioritization recommendations.
If this sounds like the old railroad dodge of pretending to discontinue the local train and preserve the name train, by requiring the name train to make the stops formerly made by the local, that's because it is.
The criteria programs will be reviewed with has not been chosen, but input from the campus community will be used to determine them.

The program prioritization process will help NIU save money by creating efficiencies when programs merge, showing NIU growing programs that will benefit from more resources and helping NIU find targets that can be used for fundraising, Freeman said.

Some programs may be merged, shuttered, diminished in size or granted more resources after the prioritization process.

In the future, a program prioritization process will take place once every three to four years and last 12 months, Freeman said.
Yes, there are now two more coaches and a snack bar car on the Limited, to handle the short business the local once carried.  But the dining car has been taken off, and the next hearing in three years will be to take off the parlor or sleeping cars that are now running empty because the Limited takes so long to get there.  Headquarters will also determine that the cab signals can be removed, as the Limited never gets much above seventy between stops.

On the railroads, the machinations with the Interstate Commerce Commission simply lead to lowered morale among the operating crews.  At a university, the remaining faculty members will no doubt be called upon to serve as participants in these prioritization committees, or to write plans for how to boost enrollment, or otherwise be diverted from their core duties.  And it's all pointless.
The Northern Illinois student who applied to Urbana or Wisconsin has the potential to do as well out of Northern Illinois as out of the others. The responsibility of being a "premier regional public" is to provide an environment, and a critical mass of peers, in which that student realizes that potential.
If that points in the direction of a student body of fifteen to seventeen thousand, and course offerings structured under the premise that students arrive college-ready, so be it.  It's all so simple, but headquarters will probably try everything but that for another five or ten years.

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