By DEVIN BROOKS, NEWS3 Reporter
MACOMB, Illinois (NEWS3) — Western Illinois University’s new president is forming plans to address challenges the school is facing as he approaches his first two months on the job.
“I do have a lot of experience handling challenges,” Dr. Guiyou Huang said. “I’ve seen growth, decline, growth, decline, flat, level.”
Western’s main struggle is student enrollment, but Huang said progress is being made.
“We have been trending up slowly, incrementally, that’s obvious,” Huang said. “But we do have a lot of work to do.”
Other than a slight decrease in students overall from last spring, the school recorded increases in new freshmen, transfers and graduates this semester. There are currently 6,965 students total, a drop of 29 from spring 2020, according to WIU officials.
Huang has instructed his team to study and lay out a plan for enrollment, retention and university branding by the end of the semester.
“We want to grow the student enrollment in the near future and in the long term,” Huang said.
Western’s Strategic Plan set three years ago currently calls for 10,000 students by 2027. Huang said this remains a goal.
“I think it’s achievable, but I need our professionals to study that number,” Huang said.
Huang said in order to effectively carry out his plan, he is looking to hire two new vice presidents to oversee finances and student success.
“Leadership is critically important for success for an institution like ours,” Huang said.
As Huang prepares for his first board of trustees meeting, he said no cuts or reduction measures are on the table right now, but student tuition and fees may be up for discussion.
“We want our education to be affordable and accessible, but at the same time, higher quality,” Huang said.
Huang said there is no word yet on the school receiving any COVID-19 vaccines for students. He also said the pandemic has not affected the university’s budget. Huang said he is “greatly appreciative” of Gov. JB Pritzker’s recent budget announcement to keep public universities at level funding of $49.6 million for next fiscal year.
He also said he is planning to meet with the WIU Black Student Association soon to address racial justice issues on campus.
An announcement regarding graduation plans is expected by the middle of March.
WIU’s next Board of Trustees meeting is set for March 25-26 on the Macomb campus.