Out-of-state applicants help UI's total rise 5%
URBANA — Applications to the University of Illinois were up 5 percent this year despite a jump in tuition, but most of the increase came from out of state.
About 28,700 students applied for the roughly 7,000 seats in the UI's freshman class for next fall, an increase of 1,500 from 2010 and 6,000 from five years ago, UI officials said.
About 19,000 of this year's applicants were granted admission, said Stacey Kostell, director of undergraduate admissions.
Just how many will accept the UI's offer won't be known until Monday, the deadline for students to respond.
That number, known as the "yield," has been on the decline for several years, said Keith Marshall, associate provost for enrollment management.
Application numbers tend to be influenced by a school's visibility and perceived quality, he said, and "we've been seeing growth in application numbers every year."
But the number of students who actually enroll depends more on the cost and affordability of an institution, he said.
UI freshman tuition rose by 9.5 percent this school year and is scheduled to rise by 6.9 percent next fall, though students keep the same tuition rate for four years under the state's guaranteed tuition law.
Once closer to 50 percent, the UI's yield last year was 38 percent, about mid-range among Big Ten institutions, officials said.
The drop is attributed to concerns about cost, as well as an increase in the number of applications overall.
If more students apply, and the number accepted does not increase, the yield goes down automatically, Marshall said. College applications are up nationwide, with students applying to more schools and therefore turning down more offers of admission, he said.
So far, the acceptance numbers are on track for a freshman class around 7,000, Kostell said. Last year's freshman class had 6,936 students.
UI enrollment has grown substantially in the last decade, in part by design. Freshman enrollment hit a peak of 7,500 in 2006, but that wasn't intentional, and since then the UI has held it closer to 7,000, Kostell said.
The number of undergraduates transferring to the UI during their sophomore, junior or senior years has also grown, from 800 a few years ago to 1,200 this year, she said.
The UI received a grant from the Lumina Foundation to increase its transfer student population, to provide more access to students "who for whatever reason could not attend the University of Illinois right out of high school," she said.
It may have been because they weren't fully prepared academically or couldn't afford to go to the UI for four years, she said. Affordability is "probably the main issue for us."
Kostell said the UI is also attracting more out-of-state and international students, a population that UI President Michael Hogan has said he'd like to increase in coming years.
"That's where most of our growth has been this year," Kostell said.
The number of applications from Illinois residents remained stable, at 16,501, while 4,927 students applied from other states and 7,291 from other countries, she said. The admissions yield for nonresident students is lower than in-state students because out-of-state tuition is so much higher, she said.
Illinois residents made up about 80 percent of last year's freshman class, the lowest rate in its history but still one of the highest in-state percentages among Big Ten universities, Kostell said.
Once above 90 percent, the in-state population has ranged from 80 to 88 percent in recent years, she said. Kostell said Illinois residents remain the UI's top priority.
"We want to make sure there's not a feeling that we're turning high-quality Illinois students away," she said. "There's certainly a place here for the best and brightest in Illinois."
Years ago the UI was more transparent about admissions criteria, listing minimum grade-point averages and ACT scores for many colleges. That was changed so that talented students were not dissuaded from applying, Kostell said.
"There were lots of candidates who weren't applying who were definitely admissible," she said.
"When we look at a class rank or GPA, how students got to that number is what we're interested in, not the number itself."