By Bill Stanton, Contributor
UNO’s goal of enrolling 20,000 students by 2020 was the subject of an open forum held Oct. 9. The forum discussed how to help campus grow the desired enrollment goal.
The three-and-a-half hour event began with a video message from Chancellor John Christensen, who was unable to attend. Christensen said the goal is to “change the profile of the campus.” This process has already started with the switch to Division I athletics and the offering of new doctoral programs. If we broaden our view UNO should become the first choice for many students looking to enrolling in higher education, Christensen said.
“The bar has been set high but the Maverick family has never avoided a challenge,” Christensen said.
Christensen said it’s UNO’s job to build a larger and more diverse workforce pipeline to impact the city, state and region.
David Brown, Omaha Chamber of Commerce president, spoke after Christensen about the strength of Omaha’s economy.
Omaha has a diverse economy, with six of Nebraska’s seven clusters of commerce in the city. The next 10 years are predicted to bring relatively low unemployment with growth in the workforce slow as well, Brown said. He added that UNO is a piece of winning the economic fight and growing the city’s workforce.
By 2018, 66 percent of all jobs in Nebraska will require some type of post-secondary education, said Jerry Deichert, researcher at UNO. In the next 10 years, jobs requiring bachelor’s degrees will increase by 14.9 percent. As we look for an opportunity for growth, Deichert said, all types of students are a priority.
Two 15-minute table conversations gave those in attendance an opportunity to respond to what the speakers had to say and voice their own opinions. A series of questions were given to direct conversations.
The subject matter turned to the roles of instructors and faculty. Russell Smith, director of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, said his research has resulted in several take-aways. First, the University of Nebraska system has missed out on recent growth in the overall higher education system of Nebraska. There has been a rise in enrollment at trade schools and commercial colleges. Second, UNO is 10 percent smaller than it was in 1992. Third, UNO lost about 15 percent market share in Douglas County. Finally, the pipeline of new freshman won’t deliver many more students and they will represent a more diverse population.
With these facts in mind, Smith said UNO needs to be seen in a new light. There are a few areas where the university could focus its efforts. The first is the type of degrees offered. Thirty percent of all students are interested in pre-health. In the past year, there have been over 600 transfer students from community colleges.
The university also needs to change how students are taught, said Ilze Zigurs, chair of the Department of Information Systems and Quantitative Analysis. With the infusion of technology in the world, she said, it’s the job of a teacher to find meaningful ways to use technology.
“The difference between us and a commercial education is our emphasis on quality,” Zigurs said. “We can no longer do this one size fits all approach.”
B.J. Reed, senior vice chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs, talked about how different restructuring processes will move the university toward the goal of 20,000 students by 2020. He said that nothing is off the table. Changes will be made where they can, including curriculum, roles of faculty, and the time and length of semesters.
“We cannot do the status quo. Everything is fair game,” Reed said. “Everybody needs to come along on the train.”