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Workforce Development & Educational Attainment

There is no more important way for NIU to engage with its region than by serving the educational needs of the region's citizens at every stage of their personal and professional lives. To that end, the University is committed to expanding off-campus course offerings and delivery methods.

Vision 2020 Goal 1. Increase Fall off-campus enrollment from 3,000 to 9,000 students

Needed: New Degree Offerings for Adult Learners

Degrees that meet regional student and workplace needs will attract greater enrollments. NIU increased baccalaureate degree completion programs from 5 to 7 in 2012. Milestones for new, blended/online degree programs: 4 by 2015 and 6 by 2020. High-demand degrees will emphasize leadership development and management in fields such as computer technology, business, arts and culture, and public safety. Research continues to assess regional needs.

Off-campus Total Enrollment Milestones

Vision 2020 Off-Campus Total Enrollment

Needed: Increased Flexibility for Adult Learners

In FY12, the number of students enrolled in traditional classes declined by 25%, and the number in online courses increased by 38%. Substantial increases in enrollment will require more online/blended programs, services customized to meet the schedules of off-campus adult learners, and marketing targeted to their needs.

A plan submitted for Vision 2020 funding would develop new programs; improve adult learner services; target promotions; and increase flexibility through accelerated courses, weekend and summer courses, and other alternatives.

Off-campus Undergraduate Enrollment Milestones

Off-Campus Undergraduate Enrollment Numbers.

Vision 2020 Goal 2: Increase graduate school enrollment from 5,700 to 8,000

Graduate School Enrollment Milestones

Graduate School Enrollment Milestones

Vision 2020 Goal 3: Increase online programs and certificates.

Online Degree and Certificate Milestones

Online Degree and Certificate Milestones

Expansion of online degrees and certificates will be funded through Distributed Learning.

Vision 2020 Goal 4: Expand engaged learning opportunities from 300 to 12,000

NIU will adopt a university-wide definition of "engaged learning" that includes disciplinary content available outside the classroom, in which the student actively participates and then connects the experience to classroom learning. These experiences include internships, research, service learning, themed living environments, etc.

Engaged Learning Milestones in ENGAGE!

Engaged Learning Milestones

Regional and International Outreach and Engagement
Outreach brings NIU resources to bear on societal needs, while engagement requires collaboration with the larger community to identify shared problems at local, regional, and international levels that are addressed in ways that produce mutually-beneficial solutions.


Vision 2020 Goal 5: Expand regional, national and international outreach and engagement


2010-12 – Establish an infrastructure that facilitates increased engagement activities

  • Designated by Carnegie as an Engaged University
  • Helped develop APLU’s assessments and metrics for evaluating university engagement activities
  • Cataloged engagement activities with ENGAGE!
  • Continued leadership in PASCAL, an international coalition for regional economic development
  • Expanded the charge of the Outreach Advisory Committee for greater focus on engagement
  • Created community newsletter highlighting campus events aimed at parents and children
  • Completed 1,870 miles of broadband networks


  • Catalog all outreach and engagement activities in partnership with the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning (OSEEL), International Programs, and NGOLD.
  • Build role of college-level staff to include engagement responsibilities

2018 – Increase number of international partnerships

2020 – Document regional engagement to measure constituent recognition of NIU’s role and commitment

Faculty Involvement in Outreach and Engagement Activities
Outreach and Engagement activities greatly enhance faculty research, scholarship and artistry, and improve the overall student learning experience. Increasing faculty participation requires incentives such as public acknowledgement, promotion and tenure status, and financial reward.


Vision 2020 Goal 6: Encourage faculty involvement in outreach and engagement activities



2012 – Raise visibility of engaged learning, engaged research, and engaged service

  • Created and issued Economic Impact Report highlighting NIU's financial impact on its host community and the larger region
  • Increased STEMfest attendance to 4,000, including faculty in 40 departments across 6 colleges

2015 – Every department lists discipline-specific outreach and engagement activities on ENGAGE!, annually expanding engaged learning opportunities.

2018 – Incorporate outreach and engagement into tenure and promotion processes in all departments so that  incentives exist for faculty participation

2020 – Document increases in faculty  outreach and engagement activities from 2012

Engagement 2012

  • Awarded Presidential Engagement Professorships
  • Featured more than 100 NIU Today stories in FY12  showing faculty and student engagement activities
  • Helped obtain $2.4 million aerospace development grant that benefits Rockford industry and provides new opportunities for NIU faculty and students