TO: University Community 

FROM: Gloria J. Gibson, President

DATE: March 16, 2023

SUBJECT: Enrollment, Recruitment and Retention Updates

Demographic changes among prospective college-going students have caused challenges for many universities, including Northeastern Illinois University. Nationally, the number of students entering college right after high school has declined. Additionally, due to previous population declines, there are fewer traditional-aged students to enroll. Thus, there is fiercer recruitment competition among universities. There has also been an increase in the availability of jobs that pay well that do not need a college degree, leaving students with more options after high school. In addition, for Northeastern, the COVID-19 pandemic deepened a troubling downward trend in enrollment. As with so many colleges and universities across our country, NEIU continues to address the effects of COVID-19 as it relates to our students.

Northeastern has established many programs to support our students and has prioritized recruitment and retention.

  • We have implemented enrollment management best-practice technological tools to communicate more effectively with prospective students, their families and referral sources, such as high school guidance counselors. 
  • We have hired new Admissions staff who are going out to schools to meet principals, counselors and students throughout Chicago and our region.
  • We are strengthening our relationships with Chicago Public Schools, collar county school districts and community colleges. 
  • We are focused on encouraging students to transfer and strengthening our dual enrollment initiatives, particularly with the City Colleges of Chicago. 
  • We have expanded our relationships with community groups and nonprofits such as Hope Chicago, which offers students from select Chicago Public Schools the opportunity to receive full tuition and housing scholarships to attend Northeastern.
  • We are also increasing our efforts to recruit internationally, and our Enrollment and Marketing and Communications teams are developing more intentional Spanish language communications to reach prospective students from predominantly Spanish-speaking households.

There are many reasons why Northeastern Illinois University has seen a dip in retention. Many of our students have full-time jobs and family responsibilities. We have prioritized supporting and retaining our students and are adding new processes and programs. 

  • We are expanding our educational programs to meet the demands of a 21st-century workforce. Our faculty are the academic backbone of our University, and we are continuing to explore the development of new academic programs to help drive enrollment and retention to meet the needs of all our students, including adult learners who seek online programs. 
  • We have begun developing a new doctoral program in Urban Education geared toward educators and changemakers alike who aim to impact the communities in which they currently work. 
  • We have a working group of faculty and staff from across the campus creating plans for a new nursing program and exploring what that program might look like to better serve our diverse populations in Illinois.
  • Our students have urged us to consider reestablishing an athletics program. We have created an Exploratory Committee investigating how such a program can contribute to recruitment, enrollment, and retention efforts, as well as invigorate university life in a new way.
  • Our Fiscal Year 2023 NEIU For You program is seeing much success. Our NEIU For You program is a top-off scholarship program that funds our eligible first-year full-time students’ tuition. As we move into Fiscal Year 2024, the NEIU For You program will continue to fund tuition for our current NEIU For You students for three additional years and tuition for our new NEIU For You first-year, full-time students for up to 12 credit hours for Fall and Spring semesters for four years. Many of our students benefit from increased financial access to affordable and quality education here at Northeastern Illinois University.
  • We have increased the usage of advising software to improve communication between faculty, advisors, and campus support staff by providing early alerts of student challenges to help with retention. 
  • We have initiated weekly meetings for Academic Advisors to share best practices and professional development opportunities to impact retention.

Through these initiatives, we are seeing improvement. Enrollment is up. We increased first-time, full-time enrollment numbers from 331 in Fall 2021 to 516 in Fall 2022. Student housing is up. The Nest residence hall is at 84 percent student occupancy, which is the highest it’s been since I’ve been President. Connections with nonprofits, community colleges and other organizations are flourishing and will continue to aid our enrollment efforts.

Spring enrollment is up, and we have put programs in place to help retain more students. And our retention rate of new transfer students for spring 2023 is 87.8% compared to 83.4% for spring 2022.

With the support of the University community, all of these efforts will help Northeastern Illinois University be a top choice for students, and our new enrollment and retention will grow.


TO: University Community 

FROM: Gloria J. Gibson, President

DATE: Dec. 1, 2022

While I am disappointed that the Board of Trustees has decided not to renew my contract beyond June 30, 2023, my commitment to Northeastern Illinois University is as strong as ever. I will continue to work with our internal and external communities to provide an exceptional education for our students centered around teaching, learning, service, research, and real-world experiences. I am committed to working with the faculty and the University community to move Northeastern forward to grow our enrollment and support and retain our students.