Message from President Downs: Enrollment Update

President Downs Graphic

I’m excited to announce this year’s enrollment figures. We continue to make some great headway in terms of enrollment management; however, there are also areas we must improve.

Fall 2019 Enrollment Highlights:

  • New freshman students are up!
    • New freshmen (342) increased over last year (339 in 2018).
  • We have a 92 percent occupancy rate in our three new residence halls (Wolves Memorial Suites, Great Plains East and West).
  • This year’s freshman class is the most academically prepared class in at least 20 years, with an average high school GPA of 3.37 and an average ACT score of 21.7.
  • For the fourth consecutive year, retention remained above 73 percent (73.05 percent), although down from 77 percent over the past two years.

All in all, these are great trends. Thank you to Dr. Jeremy Reed and the Admissions team, as well as faculty and everyone on campus, for working together and bringing in our fourth consecutive growing year of new freshman enrollment.

As I mentioned, there are areas that we need to address. Our overall headcount and full-time equivalent student numbers have once again slightly decreased. I spoke about declining on-campus credit hours back in our spring 2019 budget forum.

While this has not impacted budgets in past years, we are projecting to operate in a deficit for the current fiscal year (FY20). We currently have a healthy cash reserve, due to the judicious financial planning of Veronica Paulson and her team, assuring we are able to achieve our educational mission this fiscal year. But as I said last spring, operating in a deficit is not a long-term strategy – we must address this challenge head-on, primarily and preferably through revenue generation.

I will be sending a notice in the coming month regarding another budget forum, and I encourage you to attend. Please bring your entrepreneurial ideas on how we can grow revenues at our institution. You can also submit ideas using this online form.

I also want your ideas on how we can improve retention numbers. While freshman to sophomore retention remains strong, our figures show that we lost a significant number of full-time student credit hours. These types of credit hours are difficult to make up in new freshman enrollments. We must think of new and innovative ways to support the needs of our current and future students. Again, I encourage you to submit ideas using the online form.

Your ideas will help guide the campus leadership team as we maneuver through these temporary challenges.

In closing, we have a lot to celebrate. We continue to grow in areas where many institutions across the country struggle to recruit. At the same time, we are not immune to the macro-level changes that are affecting higher education. We must remain positive and sustain a tenacious expectation of ourselves as we continue to improve our efforts to grow Northern. It is essential for us to operate like a private institution that has the added benefit of some public resources and support. I truly believe that Northern is uniquely equipped to overcome these difficulties and will continue unleashing a steady stream of talented and work-ready graduates.

Preparing students to function in tomorrow’s workforce is our job as a higher education institution, and I’m confident we can meet the challenge.

Thank you again for all that you do for Northern, our students and our learning community! Go Wolves!