Trustees focus on enrollment, recruitment

Trustees focus on enrollment, recruitment

URBANA — The number of minority students is higher in all categories at the University of Illinois this year, but officials want to keep a spotlight on recruitment efforts — for rural students as well.

About 17 percent of the new students on campus — 7,565 freshmen and 1,381 transfer students — are from underrepresented groups, and the numbers are up over last year in every racial group, interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson told UI trustees on Thursday. One in five new students are the first in their family to attend college.

At Urbana, 1,786 undergraduates are African-American, or about 5.4 percent, up from 4.87 percent last year. The figure is 8.1 percent in Chicago and 19.5 percent at the Springfield campus.

"Suffice to say it's not high enough, but tremendous progress," said Board Chairman Edward McMillan, and other trustees agreed.

"Progress is always good," Trustee James Montgomery said later. But he worries more about students who "are not getting into this university who are minorities largely because they're not prepared in the elementary and high school level. You can't criticize the university for wanting to have people who are capable of dealing with a rigorous college education."

He'd like to see the UI get more involved in improving elementary and secondary education, and cited programs at the Urbana and Chicago campuses that provide automatic admission to community college students with good grades. Community colleges are a rich source of students who are poor, from minority groups or the first in their families to attend college, "like me," he said.

UI President Timothy Killeen said the strategic plan under development will address enrollment, including minority recruitment.

"We're nowhere near where we need to be," he said.

McMillan, who lives in Greenville, urged administrators not to overlook students from small towns and rural areas, who "may not be as prepared as young people from other schools" but also show promise.

"We have 102 counties. I think it would be wonderful if we represented them all," he said.

Data from the most recent enrollment report showed that 15 Illinois counties had no freshmen enrolled at the Urbana campus this fall.

On a related issue, administrators said they plan to continue using a single acceptance date next year, though it will be moved up earlier than the Feb. 13 date used in 2015. The UI eliminated its "priority" notification for early applicants last year, which they felt discouraged students who were deferred until a second round of notifications.

"We want to be out of the chute a little earlier this year," Wilson said.

Trustee Timothy Koritz said the change caused problems for students who had to put down deposits at other schools before learning whether they were accepted to the UI.

Trustee Karen Hasara said the grandson of two Urbana campus graduates, an engineering student, had to commit to the University of Alabama "before he knew about getting into Illinois."

"I heard a lot of complaints," she said.

"We'll always have examples of cases like that," Wilson said, but the admissions data from this past year showed improved yields across all categories of applicants.

"In the end we got more admissions, and it ended up being a good thing," she said.

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