After months of dire predictions nationwide for fall college attendance, Northern Illinois University announced Tuesday that total enrollment is up for fall 2020.
Students are back on campus at NIU, where 8% growth in the freshman class helped the university post enrollment gains this fall.
According to the official census on the 10th day of attendance, total enrollment for fall 2020 climbed to 16,769, up 160 students (1%) from 2019. Driving that growth is a freshman class of 2,047 (up 8%), and a six-percentage-point improvement in retention of first-year students.
“NIU increased total enrollment during this challenging and dynamic time by attracting a freshman class that is strong in number, talent and diversity, and by welcoming back continuing undergraduate, graduate and law students who appreciate the quality and affordability of our educational experience,” said NIU President Dr. Lisa C. Freeman. “It is deeply gratifying that students were able to look beyond the uncertainty of these last several months and recognize that NIU offers a tremendous combination of access and excellence.”
The College of Visual and Performing Arts continued a recent trend of its own. The college saw a 1.8% increase over 2019, which continues a steady climb that has seen undergraduate enrollment grow by 3.9% since 2017. The School of Art and Design has increased enrollment 3.4% over the last three years, the School of Music is up 7.1% since 2017 and the School of Theatre and Dance increased 7.8% this year over last, part of an enrollment increase of 15.3% since 2017.
“The enrollment growth in the college and the schools is further evidence of how important the arts are to the next generation of students,” said Paul Kassel, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “They want to hone their talents and know we offer great training with outstanding teachers, artists, and scholars. We’re thrilled with the new class that has joined us and are excited to partner with them as they develop their gifts and then offer them to the world.”
With this year’s jump, NIU surpassed their 2020 total enrollment goal put forth in its Strategic Enrollment Management plan and recorded its third straight year of growth among incoming freshmen. The university also set five-year highs for total number of applicants, number of applicants who met acceptance criteria and the number of applicants who confirmed interest to the university. All of that indicates that the university’s Strategic Enrollment Management Plan is working.
“Since we approved the plan in January 2019, we have dramatically changed how we approach potential students,” said Sol Jensen, NIU vice president for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. “We are identifying potential Huskies earlier in their high school careers, communicating with them more frequently and more strategically, and raising our profile through more aggressive and targeted advertising. It is satisfying to see those efforts already yielding results.”
Improved undergraduate retention is another key facet of NIU’s Strategic Enrollment Management plan, and this fall’s numbers reflect significant progress in that regard. Overall retention of first-year students climbed 6 percentage points (to 78%). That was driven by significant growth in the retention rates for students of color, as African American, Latinx and Asian students were all up by at least 10 percentage points from a year ago.
Those improvements are attributed to NIU’s commitment to removing barriers to college graduation for all students, including improvements in how the university identifies and assists students struggling to make the adjustment to college, said Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram. “The approaches we’ve developed and implemented — before and during COVID-19 — to support our first-year students enabled them to thrive and re-enroll at NIU,” she said. “Just as importantly, these measures should also help us maintain the improvements in retention and student success going forward.”
Improved retention rates helped drive up enrollment at NIU this fall.
One area where numbers slipped was among new transfer students, which declined to 1,504 (a decrease of 7%). The drop reflects continued declines in the region’s community college population.
Looking at the characteristics of the incoming class, NIU continued to have success recruiting students of color, particularly Black students. While colleges and universities across the country, including Illinois, have seen declining enrollment rates for Black students, NIU recorded its fifth straight year of increased African American enrollment in the freshman class. This year, 35% of entering freshmen are Black (up 2 percentage points), the highest that figure has been in university history. Latinx enrollment also grew, accounting for 23% of the incoming class (up 3 percentage points).
This year’s incoming class also boasts a strong academic profile. The average high school GPA among new freshmen was 3.32 — the second highest it has been in 11 years — and the percentage of applicants with GPAs of 3.5 or better grew by 16%.
Some of that increase can likely be attributed to the university’s new Huskie Pledge. Implemented this past year, the program guarantees that all tuition and fees will be covered by grants and scholarships for any Illinois students with high school GPAs of 3.0 or better and whose families have incomes of $75,000 or less.
The good news extended to graduate and professional enrollment. The NIU College of Law grew for the third straight year, up by 33 students (12%). Among all other graduate and professional programs, enrollment held steady at 4,185.
In all, Dr. Freeman said, this year’s enrollment numbers are cause for great optimism and pride.
“This is one of the most diverse and talented incoming classes that we have ever recruited, and we hope that this sets the trend for the years ahead,” she said.
Five faculty members in the NIU School of Music have earned the rank of professor. JeongSoo Kim, Jui-Ching Wang and Marie Wang are the first females to earn promotion to full professor since Edna Williams became Professor of Voice in 1987.
JeongSoo Kim is Professor of Piano, and teaches applied piano, piano literature, and piano pedagogy. Kim received her bachelor’s degree from Seoul National University, her master’s degree from the New England Conservatory, and her doctorate in piano performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music, where she worked as a piano class and applied piano teaching assistant and as a Graduate Award accompanist. As an active performer and teacher, she has had numerous solo and chamber music performances throughout the United States and South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Costa Rica, and has participated in the Aspen and Chautauqua music festivals. Her recent performing activities include solo, chamber, and piano duo recitals at Eastman School of Music, Northwestern University, Boston University, Philippine Women’s University, Sook-Myung University, Seoul City University, Kawai Piano Concert Hall, and Taiwan National Normal University. As an active member of MTNA (Music Teachers National Association), Kim serves as a Northwest District Chair for the Illinois State Music Teachers Association and has served as a co-vice president of ISMTA Naperville chapter.
Jui-Ching Wang is Professor of World Music and Music Education. She teaches music education and world music courses and coordinates world music ensembles such as the Chinese music ensemble, Indonesian gamelan ensemble, and Middle Eastern music ensemble. Wang received her bachelor’s degree in music from Soochow University in Taipei, master’s degrees in piano performance and music education from Northern Illinois University, and her doctorate in music education from Arizona State University. Prior to her studies in the United States, she taught music classes and directed choirs and recorder ensembles at a middle school in Taiwan. While completing graduate course work at ASU and NIU, she taught courses in world music and music education and participated in several world music ensembles such as the NIU Gamelan ensemble, ASU Javanese Gamelan ensemble, and Marimba Maderas de Comitan. To promote world music pedagogy, Wang organized the Teaching World Music Symposium at NIU in April 2015. As a clinician advocating the study of music as culture, she has provided training and demonstrations for in-service teachers and music students in the U.S., China, and Taiwan to help them expand their cultural horizons through music. A Fulbright Scholar, Wang studied traditional Javanese children’s singing games, tembang dolanan anak, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2016-17.
Marie Wang is Professor of Violin and a founding member of the Avalon String Quartet, the NIU School of Music’s ensemble in residence. A native Canadian, she received a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from McGill University in Montreal, and a master’s degree in performance from NIU. She also holds an Artist Diploma from the Juilliard School in Quartet Studies while she served as a teaching assistant to the Juilliard Quartet as a part of the Lisa Arnold Graduate Quartet Residency. Prior to her appointment at NIU, she was an Artist in Residence at Indiana University South Bend. The Avalon String Quartet has captured top prizes at the Concert Artists Guild and the Munich ARD international competitions. The quartet has been invited to perform at Wigmore Hall, Carnegie & Weill Halls, Alice Tully, 92nd St Y, Herculessaal (Munich),and the Library of Congress, among others. Wang also has appeared at festivals such as Caramoor, Mostly Mozart, La Jolla, Ravinia, Bath, and Aldeburgh. Marie has collaborated with artists such as Gilbert Kalish, Juilliard and Pacifica Quartets and members of the Emerson Quartet. Her recordings with the quartet can be found on Cedille Records, Albany Records and on Channel Classics.
Blaise Magniere is Professor and Richard O. Ryan Endowed Chair of Violin, and first violinist in the Avalon String Quartet. An acclaimed chamber musician in the United States and abroad, he has toured extensively, including venues such as Wigmore Hall in London, Herculessaal in Munich, the Schneider Series at Carnegie Hall, Ravinia Festival, Mostly Mozart, La Jolla Festival and the Caramoor Festival. His performances and conversation have been heard on BBC, CBC (Canada), ABC (Australia) and France-Musique. He has recorded for the Channel Classsics, Cedille, New Tangent and Albany labels, and earned the 2002 Chamber Music America/WQXR Record Award. A highly dedicated teacher, he has successfully prepared students for orchestral auditions and top graduate programs. As an assistant to the Juilliard String Quartet, he coached chamber music at the Juilliard School. He was on faculty at Indiana University South Bend before coming to NIU.
Cheng-Hou Lee is Professor and Cellist in the Avalon String Quartet. A native of Taiwan, he received both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School. He also earned a master’s degree in chamber music at Rice University, where he was a founding member of the award-winning Gotham Quartet. He was a full-scholarship student at New England Conservatory, where he received his Doctoral of Musical Art. Lee has worked with world renowned artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Harvey Shapiro, Janos Starker, Mistilav Rostropovich, Zara Nclsova, Paul Katz, Steven Iserlis, Raphael Wallfisch, Gary Hoffman, Tim Eddy, and members of the Juilliard, Tokyo, and Alban Berg Quartets. He has won the Chi-Mei Foundation Award for Outstanding Talents, the concerto competition at the Manhattan School of Music, Tuesday Musical Club Competition in Houston and twice the National Cello Competition in Taiwan, and he has appeared on WQXR radio station in New York City, WFMT radio station in Chicago and many others in the US. He was a recipient of a career grant from the Quanta Education Foundation, and he has made solo and chamber music appearances throughout the United States, as well as in Germany, Italy, Hong-Kong, and Taiwan.
About Edna Williams
Williams began her career at NIU as instructor of voice in 1965, and taught vocal lessons and classes and diction courses. She was promoted to assistant professor in 1969, associate professor in 1979 and full professor in 1987.
She studied at Wilson Junior College and earned her bachelors and masters degrees from the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University. She was internationally known as a singer and toured often.
Williams traveled to Austria to study German Lieder in 1959, and was listed in Who’s Who Among Black Americans 1980-81. Williams retired in 1991 and continued to give private lessons.
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