Across Kentucky, there’s been a worrisome trend at public universities and colleges. Undergraduate enrollment at four-year publics has dropped 9% overall
between the academic years 2016 and 2021, says the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
The pandemic aggravated that trend, as total enrollment in Kentucky, including at private colleges and community and technical schools, fell for the first time in five years
during the 2020-2021 school year, the CPE says.
That trend follows the national experience, as undergraduate enrollment continued to tumble in the pandemic year of 2020-2021.
The troublesome trend is something the national nonprofit Education Design Lab
wants to address, partly through its Designers in Residence program, a group of education policy leaders whose job is to create innovative strategies to eliminate equity and economic opportunity gaps in higher education.
Northern Kentucky University’s Bonita Brown has been appointed to the Designers in Residence program. Brown, who serves as NKU’s vice president and chief strategy officer, will work with 11 other members of the program to build initiatives to promote student opportunities at NKU and across the country.
The nationwide group will work to create a model for colleges to be regional agents of change in closing economic and racial opportunity gaps as the country moves into a post-Covid economy, the Design Lab says. The Designers in Residence will work on creating a framework that centers on the needs of students in an evolving economy and provide the start of a roadmap for other institutions to follow.
“We hope to emerge from this year with design tools that will position the scores of learner success partnerships around the country to seize what we all believe is an innovation moment, coming out of the pandemic,” says Kathleen deLaski, CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Education Design Lab.
“Our campus has a long-standing commitment to serving as an economic driver,” Brown says. “The shared insights will help us underscore our goal of meeting students where they are and expand access to higher education.”
Brown joined NKU in 2019 to drive the college's strategic framework, called Success by Design.
She previously worked as the vice president of network engagement at Achieving the Dream, and as the director of higher education practice with the Education Trust in Washington D.C.