Cyber security continues to be an important topic to Northwest faculty and staff. The Northwest Board of Regents discussed how the school is combating any cyber threats at its Oct. 20 meeting. 

Assistant Vice President of Information Technology Brennan Lehman said in just the past 30 days around 2.3 million emails were received at Northwest and 291 of those were viruses. 

“$50 billion is the amount the IRS has spent on cybersecurity in the past since 2018,” Lehman said. 

Phishing attacks are the number one offender and attacks are becoming more sophisticated, Lehman said, with AI becoming more common and proficient it is also making phishing emails less recognizable. Northwest itself has taken initiatives to combat any phishing, with external email warnings, response software and a few other ideas implemented. 

University President Lance Tatum talked about the importance of having a digitally secure campus and how it helps students not get any information stolen. 

“A student today is living probably more than 78 percent of their life in a digital space, whether it be through canvas in their classes or how they access their financial rewards…” Tatum said. “We increasingly talk about trying not to make their life overly difficult as a student, but also know that at every turn they can be compromised and their security can be placed in jeopardy… so it’s not an easy daily balance.”

The Barracuda Network on students’ emails is something that Northwest does to help prevent any phishing.

 

Northwest’s credit rating 

Vice President of Finance and Administration Stacy Carrick then presented Moody’s Corporation credit rating of Northwest, which is the financial situation of the university and a predictor for future years. 

This rating happens every three years, though it did get off schedule because of COVID and are now getting back onto a schedule. The review was just completed within late September and early October. 

Universities are rated on a two part scale, the first part being a letter grade, which is anywhere from AAA to C, with AAA being the highest rating a university can receive. The next part is the number system which goes from one to three, with one being the best. These all work together to make a rating on the same scale. Northwest received an A2 rating, which Carrick said was good.

“When we went through it at 2022 they left us at stable, felt like we were in a very good position from COVID and now they have upgraded us to positive, so that is very good for us,” Carrick said. 

In 2019 the university was given an A3 rating. The report showed that Northwest has improved and has a positive outlook, Carrick said a lot of other universities’ ratings went down in the past years. 

She said this is especially good since Northwest has a large energy infrastructure project coming up that will cost a lot of money and put debt on Northwest. The project is a $105 million expense, and would add around $20 million in debt to Northwest.

 

Other Board of Regent Business:

  • Assistant Vice President of Institutional Research and Effectiveness Egon Heidendal and  Assistant Vice President of Admissions and Student Success Allison Hoffman discussed a retention conduct study the University is going to perform to see what it can do to try to increase retention rates.

  • The creation of a bachelor of science in economics and a bachelor of science in marketing were approved for the fall of 2024.

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