Enrollment of new freshmen to the NIU College of Education continued its upward climb this fall while the number of new transfer students soared over last year.
The college welcomed 193 “highly motivated and academically gifted” freshmen in August, one more than the group that started in 2020, said David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs. Most earned high school GPAs of 3.0 or more as well as several scholarships.
Meanwhile, matriculation of 204 new transfers is 14.6% higher than last year’s count of 178.
Both are cause for celebration, Walker said, and are contributing to improved diversity in the college: “This is the largest new freshman class we’ve brought in in five years,” he says. “This is by far the largest new transfer class we’ve had in many years.”
Indeed, he adds, enrollment of freshmen is up 35.0% from fall 2017 while the headcount of transfers rose 22.2% in the same period.
Graduate students also are arriving in greater numbers, accounting for a 20.9% growth from last fall and a 61.9% jump since 2017.
Several programs also recorded larger enrollments over last year, including:
Looking at diversity, Walker reports that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students now account for 48.7% of the undergraduate population (up from 45.8% last year) and 29.1% of the graduate population (up from 29.0%).
One- and five-year enrollment trends of BIPOC students are positive across the board, he adds.
New freshmen are up 9.2% and 75.7% from 2020 and 2017, respectively, while transfers are up 32.3% and 34.4% and graduate students are up 21.9% and 66%.
Departments enrolling the largest percentages of BIPOC students are Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (55.2%) at the undergraduate level and Counseling and Higher Education (39.3%) at the graduate level.
Walker likes what he sees.
“Our efforts toward new freshmen, new transfers and new graduate students, and then toward increasing the diversity in the college with our BIPOC students, are all intentional, strategized and planned,” he says. “The data indicates that our strategies are working not only for all students but also for certain segments of students. We’re really pleased.”
He applauds department chairs, faculty and academic advisors who participated in virtual recruitment events throughout COVID-19, many of which took place outside business hours at night or on the weekends.
He points to new degrees, emphases and specializations – “We’re offering some really dynamic, cutting-edge programs right now in our curricula of study,” he says – as well as new minors: “We started about five years ago with two minors. We now have 10 minors and over 250 students enrolled in our minors. It also exposes students to our majors and some of the courses and co-curricular experiences we offer.”
He mentions the marketing work of Susan Mizgalski, the college’s senior director for Communications and Strategy and the asset-based, developmental student advising vision and strategies under Jennifer Johnson, senior director for Student Success.
He expresses great confidence and expectations in Christine Schweitzer, the new associate director for Student Success who is taking on recruitment and retention responsibilities.
He credits fertile relationships with community colleges – DuPage, Elgin, Kishwaukee, Rock Valley and Waubonsee among them – for the partnerships in signing 2+2 agreements that provide seamless transfer paths for future Huskies.
Many of these are within the college’s PLEDGE (Partnering to Lead and Empower District-Grown Educators) initiative, which in May celebrated the graduation of the first cohort of Elementary Education majors from Elgin.
“And it’s not only the curricular aspect. More importantly, it’s the human relationship aspect,” Walker says.
“During the pandemic, we were working very hard with our partnerships, answering questions, getting out in front of their students and getting into classes virtually to promote our degrees, courses and the mentoring, tutoring and assistance students get with our wraparound services.”
Supporting students is key, he adds, whether it’s through the Office for Student Success, student organizations and the leadership opportunities they provide or collaborations with University Honors.
“We recruit you, we bring you in, we retain you and then, ultimately with the Student Success pieces, it’s degree conferred and graduation,” Walker says. “What excites me is that we are a viable, top destination for students. The NIU College of Education is their choice. It’s their pick. This is a place where they want to stay, grow and eventually graduate.”