UI's record-breaking freshman class: Most in-state residents in 10 years

UI's record-breaking freshman class: Most in-state residents in 10 years

CHAMPAIGN — Freshman enrollment at the University of Illinois’ flagship campus hit another record this fall, including a 10-year high for Illinois residents, pushing overall enrollment close to 50,000.

The fall 2018 freshman class also includes record numbers of students from underrepresented groups and first-generation college students — both just above 22 percent — according to 10-day enrollment figures released Wednesday. But African-American enrollment dropped slightly again.

And for the first time in years, international enrollment declined, possibly reflecting a national trend.

In all, 7,609 freshmen enrolled this fall, topping the previous high of 7,593 in fall 2016 and placing the class among the 10 largest in the country, according to the UI.

Total undergraduate enrollment also set a record at 33,673, slightly above last year’s record of 33,624. Campuswide enrollment, boosted by an increase in online graduate programs, rose by 1,513 students, to 49,339, a new high for the eighth straight year. Last year’s enrollment was 47,826.

A total of 5,847 freshmen are in-state students, up from 5,507 last year and the highest in the last decade. The number of freshmen from U.S. states dropped from 890 to 837.

That boosted the share of Illinois residents to 76.8 percent, up from 73.3 last year.

The campus had been shooting for a target of 5,530 in-state freshmen, or about 73.7 percent, but a greater percentage of Illinois students admitted to the UI “took us up on our offer,” Director of Admissions Andrew Borst said Wednesday.

The “yield” for in-state students — the percentage of admitted students who choose to attend the university — rose from 40.5 percent to 41.8 percent. Even a 1 percent increase in yield can mean the addition of 300 students, he said.

The numbers were a “pleasant surprise,” Borst said, indicating that students are recognizing the value of a UI education.

To attract more Illinois residents — and help reverse an exodus of Illinois students to other states — the UI has increased financial aid, both need-based and merit-based, and held in-state tuition flat for four years.

“More in-state students are choosing to come to us. I think the entire state recognizes that out-migration is an issue and we’re looking to keep more students in the state,” Borst said.

African-American dropoff

The number of international students dropped to 925, or 12.1 percent of this fall’s freshman class, from 1,116 a year ago. The number of countries represented increased from 31 to 36.

Borst said that’s partly because the UI admitted fewer students from its waiting list — just 40 out of 1,500 — as a result of the higher in-state numbers.

“There were some international students on the wait list that we didn’t touch because we were at capacity,” he said.

President Tim Killeen said last month that the UI system was seeing a “plateauing” of international student enrollment, which had been growing steadily.

“This is a national issue,” he said. “We’re paying close attention to that.”

The number of students identifying as Hispanic or Latino rose by almost 100, to 1,093. But African-American enrollment dropped slightly to 475, down from 500 last year and 548 in fall 2016. That doesn’t include another 115 students who are Hispanic or multiracial who also identify as black, Borst said.

Borst said the UI received more applications from African-American students, and admitted more, than in previous years, but “the drop-off happened with yield.”

He said the campus is committed to enrolling a diverse freshman class each year, in terms of race, ethnicity, geography and “diversity of thought.” While it’s constrained by Supreme Court rulings from setting enrollment quotas by race, the UI strives for a “critical mass” of students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, he said.

System total: 85,597

The number of students from rural downstate areas also rose by 37.7 percent, with 87 out of 102 Illinois counties represented in the freshman class.

Chancellor Robert Jones said this year’s freshman class is the largest and most diverse ever, and “once again this year, we are the largest provider of undergraduate education to Illinois residents. These students are already making history here even before many of them have put away their campus maps.”

Kevin Pitts, vice provost for undergraduate education, said the campus will try to maintain the current size of the student body while working to “enroll the best classes possible.”

The campus is working on several initiatives, including the new “Illinois Commitment” program, which promises free tuition and fees to any Illinois student who is accepted to the UI and whose family earns less than $61,000 a year, the state median household income.

The average ACT score for this year’s freshman class increased slightly, from 28.5 to 28.9, but the average SAT score dropped from 1,390 to 1,342.

Across the UI system, combined enrollment in Urbana, Chicago and Springfield increased to 85,597 students, up 2.7 percent and a record high for the sixth straight year. Illinois students make up more than 80 percent of undergraduates across the system.

The numbers are from Monday, the 10th day of classes, the traditional benchmark for enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities.

Around the state

The UI's campuses in Chicago and Urbana continue to grow, and Eastern Illinois saw a huge increase this fall after a significant recruiting push. But the record is mixed around Illinois:

School Freshman enrollment Total enrollment
UI Chicago +2.7% (4,159) +3.7% (31,683)
UI Springfield +13.7% (316) -7.7% (4,575)
Illinois State +10% (3,689) Flat (20,635)
Eastern Illinois +24.5% (2,404) +7.1% (7,526)
SIU Carbondale -20% (1,133) -11.9% (12,817)


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