Research Findings

Three overarching observations:

  1. Responses were very similar across all eight groups.
  2. The majority of respondents have positive perceptions of NIU.
  3. The majority of respondents think NIU provides a high-quality education at an affordable price.

Some key institutional strengths identified by all groups include: 

  • Wide variety of majors and degrees
  • Caring and accessible faculty
  • Excellent range of extracurricular activities
  • Faculty achievements are impressive
  • Alumni achievements are impressive
  • Chicago-area location provides significant advantages
  • Cost-vs-benefit calculation high: NIU is an affordable, high-quality choice

Respondents were asked to provide words and phrases that described NIU. The following were the most common attributes submitted:



Strong leadership




Successful alumni

Caring faculty


Wide variety of majors


Proximity to Chicago

Close to home

Sense of community

Individual attention

Division I athletics

Mid- to large-sized university

Wide variety of extracurricular activities







Respondents were also asked for words, phrases and images they would use to market NIU to prospective students:

  • Close to Chicago
  • Caring, personalized attention
  • Success in life with an NIU degree
  • Exciting athletics
  • Changing, updating, progressing, renewing
  • Committed to excellence
  • Connected to businesses
  • American dream fulfilled
  • Find and realize your potential
  • Hands-on learning
  • Alumni network  

Respondents also identified what we call “aspirational attributes,” or those characteristics that define what they expect from a university like NIU:

  • Nationally recognized
  • Hands-on preparation for the real world
  • Strong research programs with opportunities for student participation
  • High quality professors and highly-ranked academic programs
  • Strong athletic teams 

Finally, respondents provided attributes they believed were important in positioning NIU as a vibrant institution that is well-prepared to meet the challenges that lie ahead:

  • Providing a relevant education that empowers all learners
  • Global connections
  • Transformational experiences
  • Engagement with the region and world
  • A genuine embrace of diversity
  • Emphasis on ethics to produce responsible citizens
  • Strong connections to corporations and all Chicagoland institutions
  • Robust alumni network
  • Strong job placement services

Related Links

NIU Brand Image Survey by the Public Opinion Laboratory - Excerpts from Executive Summary (pdf)