In the know: UNI releases Autumn Academic Update

Education is changing rapidly and we need to think of where we want to be 30 years from now,” said President Mark A. Nook during the annual university address held in Lang Hall this past week. “And we need to take those steps now!”

Nook’s address before faculty and staff outlined key strategic initiatives and investments the campus will be implementing over the next fiscal year to help attract more students while equipping those students for success beyond UNI.

“It is imperative to the health of Iowa and our region that we ensure our students thrive on campus and carry that momentum into their careers,” said Provost Jim Wohlpart. “You need look no further than our retention and graduation rates to see we are indeed doing just that.”

Autumn Academic Update

The University of Northern Iowa realized an 83.8 percent retention rate for first-time full-time freshmen returning this fall semester.  In addition, the 4-yr graduation rate of 43 percent is 11.1 percentage points above the expected rate given UNI’s freshman profile when compared to peer institutions.

“We all can be proud of our caring culture that helps students persist to a degree while keeping overall debt low,” said President Nook.  “However, with every success we are presented new opportunities.

The primary opportunity, recruitment, is of paramount focus this fiscal year and beyond. Student headcount won’t be official until Sept. 6; but UNI has been budgeting for the potential enrollment decrease to make sure the institution can continue to elevate student success.  

“We understood fairly early in the budgeting process we were going to have fewer students this fall,” said Senior VP for Finance and Operations Michael Hager.  “What we didn’t want to do is stymie key initiatives this year.  We sharpened our pencils and found the funds for strategic investment in our future.”

 Funds came from myriad sources, including realized efficiencies, state support and fundraising growth:

 - Schindler Education Center-Leed Gold Certified, Saving: 55% utility cost of $183,000/year

 - UNI received full FY19 State budget request: $95M, and increase of $2M from FY18

 - Private fundraising crested $22.8M in 2017-18; a net increase of $3.8M from the prior year

 - Panther Scholarship Club raised a record $1.52M in cash donations

 “We have done a superb job finding the initial funds we need to begin competitively positioning ourselves with prospective students,” commented Associate VP for Enrollment Management Matt Kroeger.

 Although Kroeger leads the campus enrollment efforts, it is going to take the entire UNI family to reach the campus’ five-year goal of a 13,500 total undergraduate and graduate student mix. 

 “While we drive for thirteen-five in the fall of 2023 we need to continue to hold classroom quality which helps meet the needs of Iowa,” stated Wohlpart.  “We also need to increase our market share of Iowa high school graduates, increase non-resident undergraduates and attract Iowa transfers through community college  partnerships.” 

 As it pertains to increasing Iowa high school market share, UNI will build upon the success of UNI-CUE by launching an extensive student engagement and recruitment effort titled, the Panther Promise Program.

Autumn Academic Update
Juana Hollingsworth, UNI's assistant director of diversity recruitment, is one of many who has played a key role in bringing more than 2,000 students to campus as part of the Panther Promise Program.

 Robert Smith, UNI-CUE’s Executive Director, and a team of admissions professionals have worked with a litany of schools and will bring cohorts of 50 to 100 prospective students to campus over the course of the academic year.

 “We anticipate welcoming approximately 2,000 high school students who we know will be immediately eligible for admission,” said Smith. “Prior to the development of the Panther Promise Program these students may not have come to campus or considered UNI.  The work of Megan Holbach, Sunni Kegebein, Carah Mabry and Juana Hollingsworth, will without question help us grow enrollment while making sure all students achieve a valuable degree.”

 UNI’s future success faces some headwinds given the national conversation regarding the value of higher education, in-state and out-of-state competition and a strong local and regional economy with low unemployment.

“We are aware of the extremely competitive market we live in today and we have to own it,” stated Nook.  “That said, UNI’s unique commitment to student success positions us to help chart a path for Iowa’s continued success.”

UNI will be providing updates on these key strategic initiatives over the course of the academic year and will continue to engage faculty, staff and students with a focused eye on building the UNI Experience.