Four key university-wide priorities have been identified as major areas of strategic focus for the university, each aligned with our mission and values:
1. Grow and Develop Our Undergraduate and Graduate Student Bodies (with an emphasis on student success before and after graduation)
The success of our ability to grow our student body relies heavily on the attractiveness of an Illinois Tech education and the degree to which we are able to communicate that nationally and globally. Our graduates are known as innovative professionals who excel in their roles as technology and societal leaders, pioneers, entrepreneurs, deep thinkers, and team builders. Accentuating the unique features of an Illinois Tech education and building on those qualities are key to our future success. Within the many technology and professional areas that Illinois Tech emphasizes (including, but not limited to, engineering, science, mathematics, architecture, design, law, psychology, and business), a common thread that emerges is the ability to build, manage, and ensure the proper functioning of the future technology economy.
This is accomplished through new venture creation as well as through leadership in established businesses. One unique aspect of an Illinois Tech education has been the Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program, which was born out of the 1994 National Commission for IIT. Done well, this program continues to be a distinctive and important element of our undergraduate education. With the launch of our Kaplan Institute and the reinvigoration of our IPRO experience, every Illinois Tech student should graduate with strong skills in innovation, creativity, project-based learning, project management, communication, and interdisciplinary teamwork. Properly grounded on disciplinary professional excellence, this distinctive model of education should serve as the foundation for attracting more and better students to the university and for ensuring that our graduates are successful in their future careers. It should also be a goal of our new plan to ensure that our graduate professional students are also exposed to this distinctive model of education.
Our plan for growing both our undergraduate and graduate student bodies relies heavily on a number of new initiatives. Several of these initiatives reflect the rapidly changing landscape of higher education. It is paradoxical that while many universities and colleges are struggling with declining enrollments, the demand for higher education and the associated skills has never been higher. The mismatch has been the gradual attempt by many universities to adapt their educational offerings and delivery methods to the changing demographics and demands. While in much of the United States there are declining numbers of high school graduates going on to colleges and universities, in nearly all states, there are increasing numbers of potential adult learners. Developing creative ways of reaching these adult learners and marketing and delivering education to them must be an important element of Illinois Tech’s plans for growth. Our initiatives include growing our online graduate programs internationally and domestically, developing certificates and micro-degrees for the adult-learner market, reaching adult learners through corporate onsite- and hybrid-delivery modalities, and developing a pathways program for both undergraduate and graduate students from around the world.
Our plans to grow and develop our student body also rely heavily on ensuring that Illinois Tech is advancing and ensuring the success of our students. Through a variety of means, including creating a more residential model of undergraduate education, expanding our student retention task force, creatively and proactively addressing student challenges, and placing our students more effectively in internships and work experiences, we believe that we can excel at the graduation rates of our students, far exceeding the national average. Doing so will undoubtedly enable growth of our student body. Similarly, we should ensure that we are strongly retaining our graduate professional students by developing early-identification systems for struggling students. It is important that Illinois Tech has robust mental health resources, is being proactive in helping students, and assists students with placement in internships, externships, and permanent employment. Finally, we understand that students from underrepresented groups need role models and mentors with whom they relate well. For Illinois Tech to succeed, we must ensure that we are hiring diverse faculty and staff, and equipping them with the professional tools they need if we are to fulfill our aspirations in engendering student success.
Another important ingredient in growing our student body is to invest significantly in our campus environment and infrastructure to improve the student experience. One significant contribution to this is the renovation of Bailey Hall (to be named George J. Kacek Hall to honor the recent donor who enabled this renovation), which will bring 330 new beds online in the new student residence hall. We plan to shortly follow this with the renovation of Cunningham and Carman halls. We also plan to invest significantly in the student experience associated with athletics and related indoor activities, which constitutes a substantial portion of our students’ time during the academic year. We also intend to significantly invest in modernizing and enhancing our educational and research laboratories to further enhance the student experience.
Finally, a key ingredient in student success is ensuring the active engagement of corporate and nonprofit organizations in the lives of our students, through placement in internships, feedback on the relevance and impact of our educational programs and curricula, design and support of new interdisciplinary project-based learning opportunities, philanthropy, and funding of our research. Our graduates can only be successful if our society highly values their talents and abilities, and the preparation that we impart to our students.
Our strategies to grow and develop our undergraduate and graduate student bodies with an increased emphasis on student success are:
- Revitalize our truly distinctive Illinois Tech education
- Reinvigorate IPRO 3.0 and develop NxtPRO learning opportunities to provide students with authentic, project-based learning experiences.
- Redesign our core curriculum to ensure that all students have strong skills in leadership, writing and speaking, innovation and design, and an understanding of human behavior, institutions, and cultures.
- Infuse modern computing and computational skills in all of our curricula.
- Grow the number of new, undergraduate, degree-seeking first-time freshman and transfer students to 1,100 each year by 2025
- Increase the total number of degree-seeking undergraduate students to 4,000 by 2025.
- Increase the number of on-campus, graduate degree-seeking students university-wide to 4,000 by 2025
- Increase our first- to second-year retention of full-time, degree-seeking, undergraduate students from 86 percent to 95 percent by 2025
- Increase our six-year undergraduate degree-seeking graduation rate of all undergraduates from 70 percent to 78 percent by 2025
- Increase our undergraduate placement rate of students seeking employment at the time of graduation from less than 50 percent to greater than 90 percent by 2025
- Increase the number of our students participating in internships
- Ensure all students have at least one mentor (either faculty or staff) during their time at the university
- Develop a comprehensive marketing campaign that includes major news stories in both the Chicago and national markets over a sustained period of five years
- Use social media and nontraditional channels to market with greater effectiveness to communicate the unique value proposition of Illinois Tech
2. Fully Realize Our Identity as the Premier Technology-Focused University in Chicago and One of the Top Five Nationally
Illinois Tech has long been one of the premier technology- and science-focused universities in the nation that has attracted students from throughout the U.S. and abroad. Its unique relationship to Chicago and to Illinois is one that is distinctive and should enable our growth not only in in the Illinois market, but also nationally and internationally. Through its P33 initiative, Chicago will focus on further developing its technology sector to become a leading global technology city. Illinois Tech has an opportunity to align many of our priorities to better serve the city, while at the same time achieving the academic prominence nationally and internationally that will attract the best students to Chicago to participate in its programs.
One key way to do this is to continue to expand our offerings, programs, and enrollments in computer science and computing-related disciplines. Computer science, data science, IT management, and electrical and computer engineering have all seen strong growth in their enrollments in the last decade and the demands for computing-related degrees and programs is likely to continue to grow strongly into the future. The growth of jobs in the computer systems and computer design-related services sectors have grown more than 200 percent over the past 20 years and appears to be on track to continue this growth for the foreseeable future. Moreover, computing is becoming so ubiquitous that active computational skills, such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, and software programming, can now be fruitfully applied to any discipline to enhance the value of knowledge and capability of the graduate.
Historically, Illinois Tech has embraced this integration of computing and computational methods across our disciplines. For Illinois Tech to continue to advance our institution, grow enrollments, and play a larger role in the growth of Chicago as a global technology city, we must continue this commitment through our support of interdisciplinary degree programs so that active computational skills become pervasive throughout all of our colleges and schools. Illinois Tech must also continue to strengthen and grow our historic strengths in engineering, applied technology, science, and mathematics, as well as in architecture and business, which are now categorized as STEM disciplines.
Another important ingredient in becoming a preeminent technology-focused university is to ensure that we understand well the trends and needs of our society and our economy in the coming decades. Within the technology arena, we know that our economy will be increasingly driven and enabled by advanced technologies, including automation, computer enablement, robotics, advanced manufacturing, bio- and nanotechnologies, and related rapidly developing technologies. We recognize and applaud our historic leadership and strengths in science, technology, mathematics, and the integration of STEM disciplines and computational methods in creating innovation breakthroughs. Illinois Tech must continue to be a national and international leader in both the development of these technologies as well as an enabler of the implementation of these technologies in the economy. One important way to ensure that we are cognizant of the ways in which technologies are being implemented is to develop close partnerships with corporations and with other innovative universities that are at the frontier of new technology development. We must also continue and deepen our historic relationships with the national laboratories. These partnerships will, in turn, keep us well-informed about the satisfaction of others with the education of our students and our ability to help form them as educated and prepared professionals.
Another important element of our fully realizing our identity as the premier technology University in Chicago is to ensure that the technologies that we routinely employ in our education, research, and business practices are state of the art. When prospective students and their parents and friends visit our campus, they must be singularly impressed that we are fully committed to being a technology-rich and innovative university. This will require that we are constantly searching for ways to upgrade our use of technology to be most efficient, to be most innovative, and to create the environment that enables our stakeholders to see clearly that we are the premier technology university in Chicago.
Our specific strategies to fully realize our identity as the premier technology-focused university in Chicago and one of the top five in the nation are:
- Substantially grow our computational and computing capacity in research and education
- Develop substantive, multicourse elements of active computational, digital, and data intensive skills in all Illinois Tech curricula by 2025
- Grow our computer science and related computing academic units to be leaders in the Chicago higher education market
- Identify our core areas of strength in research, scholarship, and education, and enhance them
- Invest in new faculty who effectively bridge historic areas of strength with other parts of the academy
3. Strengthen Our Finances to Enable Strategic Investment Each Year
One of our most important financial health indicators of our university is the cash flow margin Illinois Tech maintains in its annual operations. This margin is our revenues minus our expenses divided by our total revenue as a percentage. For example, with $200 million in total revenue (tuition, endowment payout, operations income) and $190 million in expenses (faculty and staff compensation, administration, operating expenses), our cash flow margin would be $10 million/$200 million = 5%. Our university’s cash flow margin over the past several years has been around 2–3%. An analysis of our peer and aspirational peer universities indicates that a healthy cash flow margin would be around 10%. Achieving this margin will require focused efforts to increase tuition and operations revenue and reduce and control expenditures.
The university has identified a number of new revenue initiatives that fall under the rubrics of new methods of delivery, new educational products, and enhanced reach of the university. Among those new revenue initiatives that have already been launched are (1) the Cambridge Education Group pathway program for international undergraduate and graduate recruiting, (2) the Beacon Education Partnership for offering online M.A.S. degrees in China, and (3) a partnership with Kellogg Brown & Root to offer an online undergraduate certificate program in chemical engineering. Each of these new initiatives have very substantial potential for generating new revenues for our university.
The university is also exploring ways of growing and enhancing our operational revenues by increased non-degree offerings in online educational opportunities and executive education, and better use of our current facilities throughout the year. With the renovation of Bailey Hall (the future Kacek Hall), the university should be able to generate additional housing revenue from increased numbers of undergraduates. Our plans are to also quickly renovate Cunningham Hall, which would be used for graduate housing revenue from increased graduate enrollment.
We must also grow the endowment to build a more stable platform to support university operations and increase alumni financial support of the university. Additionally, we must become nimbler as a university in vectoring faculty and staff support toward those initiatives that are growing, while gracefully decreasing faculty and staff support in those areas that are shrinking on campus. Faculty who are interdisciplinary must be willing to support academic programs in the differing colleges and schools in which their expertise is of value. Deans and department chairs must actively manage their instructional and administrative budgets to ensure their revenue and expenses are right-sized to enable the university to achieve its financial objectives.
Properly structuring our revenues and expenses for a healthy cash flow margin will enable strategic investment. Among the most critical strategic investments is regularly renewing our physical facilities, both for student life and for academic excellence. Our Miesian pavilion buildings are wonderfully flexible and repurposable, but they require care and maintenance to ensure they are attractive and functional. As we reassess our educational products and delivery methods, we must invest in those revenue initiatives that hold the greatest promise for advancing our university. While our core business of being a premier technology university will remain, the specific academic programs, the delivery methods, and the actual degree and certificate products will change. We must also become a university that is agile and embraces change.
Our specific strategies to strengthen our finances to enable strategic investment are:
- Increase revenues and control expenses to achieve an 8% cash flow margin by 2025
- Develop new revenue initiatives to achieve enrollment goals defined in strategic priority 1
- Grow our computer science and related computing academic units to be leaders in the Chicago higher education market
4. Become a leading university by 2025 in the development and delivery of our research and educational programs
As discussed above, the success of Illinois Tech in the evolving landscape of higher education relies strongly on our ability to evolve and grow not only our academic programs, but also our delivery methods and educational products. We need faculty and staff who embrace change and agility and who are highly skilled and competent in online technology, pedagogy, and instructional design. This will take some time to change our culture and capabilities, and during this transition period, we must explore ways of remaining extremely competitive in the higher education landscape. For example, the Beacon Education Partnership offers us the technology and speed to penetrate the China online market rapidly while we are developing our own internal capabilities. Similar technology and delivery partners may well be needed in other markets including the domestic online and corporate engagement markets.
A key element in ensuring that Illinois Tech be a leader nationally as a higher education institution must be our continued emphasis on the diversity of our faculty, staff, and students, and our commitment to being an inclusive and welcoming community. The evidence is clear that diverse and inclusive teams are the most creative and productive. While our student body is diverse, we need to ensure that we are welcoming and inclusive. We must also redouble our efforts to ensure that our faculty and staff are also diverse and inclusive.
Excelling in the area of educational programming requires that our university continues to innovate in our research programs, both disciplinarily and interdisciplinarily. While ensuring that our academic programs are well founded on disciplinary excellence, as they have been historically, we must also ensure that they are pushing the research and educational boundaries of interdisciplinary excellence. Increasingly, the research that will have the largest impact on society requires active engagement of teams of researchers across multiple disciplines. Some of the most impactful new educational programs are those in which powerful new technologies are applied ubiquitously in problem solving. A good case in point is the growing importance of artificial and augmented intelligence across many sectors of the economy. Accordingly, our university must become increasingly proficient in tackling cross-disciplinary research problems in technology that have large potential impact on society. We must also become increasingly comfortable as a community of scholars and educators in forging cross-disciplinary degree programs, particularly those that utilize increasingly powerful tools of technology.
The strategies that we will use to become a leading university in both our educational and research programs are:
- Establish a campus-wide initiative in faculty development that enables excellence in successful grant writing, online instructional and technical skills, and effective pedagogy
- Develop more than 2,000 new online enrolled students (incrementally) by 2025 from online and reskilling
- Refocus our online educational offerings to include corporate reskilling, international online, and domestic online using advanced, state-of-the-art technologies and pedagogy
- Establish a campus-wide leadership team focused on diversity and inclusion, drive diversity in faculty and staff hiring, and develop strategies for ensuring respect and inclusion
- Establish a faculty leadership program to groom promising faculty for both research and administrative leadership positions
- Develop a campus-wide approach for forging collaborative and interdisciplinary programs