Stefanie Niles, vice president for enrollment management at Dickinson College, was voted president-elect of the National Association for College Admission Counseling recently at the association’s 73rd National Conference in Boston.
Niles’ three-year term as president-elect, president and past-president runs 2017-20. One of her priorities will be college affordability. In addition, she pledged to address the needs of undocumented and international students during her time on the board.
Niles has served on NACAC’s Current Trends and Future Issues Committee as well as the national college fairs committee and affiliate presidents council. Throughout her career, she has been active in three state and regional NACAC affiliates. In 2016, she served as a faculty member for the Pennsylvania’s Association for College Admission Counseling’s Enrollment Management Institute.
Niles has worked in the admission profession for two decades. A member of Dickinson’s leadership team since 2015, she oversees college enrollment, financial aid and athletics. She previously served similar roles at Hollins University, Bryn Athyn College and DePauw University. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Virginia, a master’s degree in education from Indiana University-Bloomington and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. She recently completed a term as chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s Executive Doctorate Program Alumni Board.
Q. What is the National Association for College Admission Counseling, and what does it do?
A. The National Association for College Admission Counseling, founded in 1937, is an organization of nearly 16,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. NACAC is committed to maintaining high standards that foster ethical and social responsibility among those involved in the transition process to college. The organization provides professional development opportunities, research and career resources for college counseling and admission professionals, and pathways to connect students with information on the college search and selection process.
Q. What will you be doing in your role as president of the association?
A. It will be my responsibility as president, along with the chief executive officer, to serve as the official spokesperson for the association. I will call and preside over meetings of the full association, the assembly (comprised of elected delegates from NACAC’s 23 state and regional affiliate organizations), the board of directors and the executive committee. I will also serve as an ex-officio member of most of NACAC’s 13 committees, which direct the organization’s work in areas such as professional development, communications, government relations, international initiatives, and more.
Q. What would you identify as a key trend affecting college admissions?
A. College cost and affordability is a topic of great significance that affects students at almost every high school and college in the country (and, therefore, the NACAC members who work with them), and one without easy solutions to the challenges we face. College tuition has risen significantly in recent years, yet family incomes have largely remained stagnant. I have been a member of NACAC’s Current Trends, Future Issues Committee for the past three years, and we have devoted our time to developing strategies to help our members provide the best advice they can to families about saving for and investing in college. The value of a college education is significant for so many reasons, not the least of which is that studies have determined an individual with a college degree has significantly higher earning power than one who only has a high school diploma. However, for many young people a college degree is unattainable given the high cost. During my time on the board of NACAC, I hope to advance the national conversation about college affordability and accessibility, and help the association assist its members by providing resources to aid them in supporting students as they strive to achieve their educational goals.
Q. The news release announcing your election mentions that you have been in the admissions profession for two decades. How has college admissions evolved through those years?
A. In so many ways. Certainly one of the most significant changes is how students access information about colleges, and how we interact with them. When I began working in college admissions, we were just starting to use the internet to convey information to students, and email was relatively new to that population, and very popular. Now, of course, with most students having easy access to the internet at home and on their phones (with lots of information accessible beyond the college’s own website), and a host of social media outlets available to them, students have a lot more control over their college search, but much more information to sift through and process. Gone are the days of 80+ page view books. Now we rely on videos, online tours, and other digital resources to convey a sense of our campus communities and offerings. Admissions offices need to be constantly vigilant to ensure they are using the most effective means of communication so they (are) present and accessible as students are looking for insights to help make their college choice.
Q. What is the one key piece of advice you would give families as they begin to consider college planning?
A. Be thorough in your research. For many students, choosing a college is the biggest decision they will have made to date, and it has long-ranging impacts. The opportunities presented to a student in college and the people with whom they interact have the potential to influence their future professional and personal pathways. I believe there is more than one “right” college for every student, but there are definitely wrong choices, too. Students and their families should visit campuses, talk with students, faculty members and alumni about their experiences, ask questions about research, internships, and study abroad opportunities (if these are of interest), and read about academic programs and campus life. It will take some time to do the appropriate research, but it will be worth the investment.