Western Illinois University President Guiyou Huang believes one way the school can attract more students is by beefing up its online offerings.
"Ladies and gentlemen, online education is here to stay," Dr. Huang said during a news conference. "It's a very important tool for higher education. It's an important future so we need to recruit for the online segment as well."
Western's enrollment has declined for more than a decade so part of Huang's mission is to turn that around. The Fall, 2020 overall enrollment was 7,490 compared to 7,624 a year earlier.
Huang told reporters WIU must also add new markets to its traditional student recruitment areas and emphasize the quality of its faculty.
"(Students) have come (to WIU) for 121 years. They have always come. Our challenge is to get more to come here to study," Huang said.
"We will strengthen the programs that we can. We will have more distinctiveness so that they become more attractive and more competitive."
He said Board of Trustees members and alumni have praised the education they received at WIU, which gives him confidence that the institution can attract quality students.
Huang also told reporters he wants to spend more time and resources on recruiting international students once the pandemic is behind us.
Huang took over as WIU president on January 1, 2021. He said there is no such thing as a perfect president but he promised to work hard to help students succeed and to bring financial stability to Western.
He vowed to be a visible presence in the Macomb and Quad Cities communities.
Huang said he would like to see greater support for higher education from the state and federal governments. He said he would be "very happy" if the Illinois legislature and governor approve the new budget proposed by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
The IBHE plan would increase funding for public universities next fiscal year by $23.2 million and for community colleges by $5.3 million. The board said the budget focuses on closing equity gaps in higher education outcomes.
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