UNL’s chancellor resets the clock on university’s 30k enrollment goal

Story by Brianna Foster, NewsNetNebraska

Chancellor Harvey Perlman gives the 2013 State of the University Address on Sept. 17. Photo credit: UNL Newsroom.

In his 2011 State of the University address, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman made a goal of increasing student enrollment from slightly under 25,000 to 30,000 by 2017.

“Our increasing attractiveness to non-resident students and international students and our Big Ten status presents an opportunity [to continue to grow,]” said Perlman at the time.

On Thursday, Perlman reset the clock on his 2017 enrollment goal. In a message to faculty and staff members Perlman acknowledged that the 2017 enrollment goal of 30,000 may be too lofty.

“Rather than make the compromises we might have to make to achieve 30,000 in the time specified, I am suggesting that we extend the timeline of our goal until sometime around 2020,” Perlman said.

Click here to see NewsNetNebraska’s video coverage of this story.

Perlman said high graduation rates made it more difficult to achieve the 2017 enrollment increase and that he underestimated the accommodations needed to reach that goal. “I do want to be clear that we are not in any way backing away from our ambition to reach 30,000,” said Perlman.  He added, “I do not regard that number as a necessary cap on what we might ultimately seek to achieve.”

Out-of-state students

UNL student Larry Brown understands the extra time it will take for UNL’s enrollment expansion. The Chicago native said it takes  money, programs, facilities, and more specifically, accommodations for out-of-state students like him.

“You have to show out-of-state students what’s out here,” he said.  “You need a long-term marketing strategy to keep people coming out here. It’s a good idea to extend that out a little bit.”

When Brown told people in Chicago several years ago of his plans to transfer to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he said many people were shocked because they didn’t know much about the university.

He said he didn’t know much about the area either. Brown didn’t go to new student enrollment or stay in the residence halls beforehand.  “I didn’t know if there was a Wal-Mart, a Target or a mall [in Nebraska],” Brown said.

A transfer student, Brown heard about the university through the Chicagoans for Nebraska chapter of the University of Nebraska Alumni Association, and through a recruiting visit at his community college. That made Brown more interested in the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Now, as a senior, Brown said he appreciates the university and even suggests it to others in Chicago even though his perception of UNL is common for many out-of-state students.

Taylor Garlow, a sophomore student, echoed Brown’s thoughts.

She said university recruitment was effective in reaching her, but out-of-state students are still harder to reach.

Garlow is from North Carolina and said because her family doesn’t live close by, her connections have made the university more comfortable and familiar, despite her initial reluctance to move.

Perlman’s enrollment extension from 2017 to 2020 provides three extra years to increase the student population by 5,555 students.

In fall 2013, the enrollment total reached 24, 445, a 1 percent increase from the previous academic year. The fall 2013 incoming, first-time freshman class reached a record high of 4,420 students.

Department responsibility

Jake Kirkland Jr., Assistant Director of UNL Career Services, also agreed with the chancellor’s decision.

“The chancellor and many of his cabinet people have had a chance to think this goal through and realizing that in the best interest of the university and students and all of those entities involved, the timeline needs to be extended,” he said.

“He has provided some sound reasoning for that. It’s wise because there could be some stress and strain on departments to try to accomplish that within the 2017 [timeline].”

Kirkland said that if enrollment were to increase by the initial year of 2017, then housing, educational resources and faculty consideration would need to be in place.

He said the responsibility to reach that enrollment goal by 2020 does not rest solely on the UNL Office of Admissions.

“Every department has a role in this, it’s not just admissions by themselves. Admissions can get them here – It’s what we do to keep them here. We all have to play a role in making it happen,” he said.

Kirkland said Career Services is collaborating with other campus departments to improve student retention.

“If a student is somehow engaged in their interests here, they’re gonna hang around. It’s when they can’t seem to make that connection – they’re drifting. And pretty soon they drift away from campus.”

Keeping students from drifting away from campus is one of Ashley DiGregorio’s goals as the event coordinator at the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center.  She said the chancellor’s timeline extension was comforting.

Senior student TeyAnjulee Leon works with another student in the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center (JGMC). The JGMC is attached to the Nebraska Union on city campus.

“Relaxing on that plan could be good for students as a whole, particularly underrepresented student groups and retention efforts,” she said.

She emphasized the need to invest in programs that will enhance the experiences of students who are currently enrolled at UNL.

“I agree with investing money in facilities for initiatives and projects that get more students on campus, but doing that in a thoughtful way will make sure students who are already here will have an experience that makes them want to stay and makes them feel like they got value out of their education, “ she said.

TeyAnjulee Leon, a senior student, also said the smaller needs of students should be addressed. Things such as facilities, parking, housing and course options for students.

“It’s the day to day stuff, not the grand improvements [that affect] whether or not I stay here,” she said.

Leon said UNL offers educational value and has amazing faculty and staff, however, she would like to see more diversity.

“They need to be more considerate in how they focus their efforts,” she said.

In his message Thursday, Perlman thanked his colleagues for their commitment to the university. “This is a very exciting time for the university, and that is true because you make it so,” he said.

Click here to read UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman’s most recent State of the University address from Sept. 17, 2013.

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