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– UNI Removes Time Restrictions for Returning Stopped-Out Graduate Students

CEDAR FALLS — Prior to the impact of COVID-19 on enrollment in 2020, the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) faced significant challenges, experiencing a nearly 10% decrease in total student numbers and a 20% decline in graduate and professional students. This decline marked the first time since 1993 that UNI reported a graduate school cohort of fewer than 1,300 students.

The pandemic further exacerbated UNI’s downward trend in graduate enrollment, plummeting from a peak of 1,902 students in 2017 to a mere 1,218 students in 2020—the lowest figure in thirty years.

In response to these challenges, UNI outlined its strategic approach to address the enrollment decline while aligning with its mission and strategic goals in its 2020 enrollment report presented to the Board of Regents.

Fast forward four years, UNI is actively engaged in efforts to reverse this trend, showing promising progress by increasing its graduate and professional enrollment to 1,279 students. The university has introduced various initiatives aimed at generating momentum both at the student and faculty levels.

Acknowledging the unforeseen obstacles that students may encounter, UNI recently introduced a “special opportunity” for individuals who had paused their pursuit of a graduate degree. This initiative includes a waiver of UNI’s “recency requirements,” which historically hindered returning graduate students who had been absent for more than seven years for master’s programs and ten years for doctoral programs.

By lifting these barriers, UNI aims to provide a seamless pathway for former graduate students admitted in 2011 or later to resume their academic journey or explore new academic avenues.

In addition to facilitating the return of students, UNI is offering $500 scholarships to support returning students in alleviating financial constraints associated with continuing their higher education.

On the faculty recruitment front, UNI is implementing a “faculty tuition reimbursement program” designed to enhance its graduate programming, attract and retain faculty members, and bolster graduate and professional student numbers. This initiative aims to address challenges in hiring faculty with terminal and master’s degrees in specific disciplines by providing tuition coverage for degree pursuits aligned with the faculty’s role at UNI.

The program prioritizes faculty pursuing degrees within the regents’ institutions and accredited out-of-state programs that enhance competencies in their respective disciplines. Faculty participants receiving tuition support are required to commit to serving UNI for a specified duration, ensuring a long-term benefit for the university.

As UNI continues to navigate these initiatives, the university remains committed to fostering a supportive environment for both students and faculty, with a focus on academic growth and excellence.