Hail to Alma Mater on new campus license plate

Hail to Alma Mater on new campus license plate

URBANA — Hey UI4EVER or ILLINI1 fans, it's time to swap out your University of Illinois license plate.

The Illinois Secretary of State's office is unveiling a new collegiate plate today for the UI's flagship campus, to bring the design in line with the school's updated logo.

The new specialty plate features the "Block I" logo with an image of the Alma Mater sculpture in the background.

The old plate bore the former "Column I" logo that was replaced last year with the block I already used by Illinois athletics, to unify the university's branding.

All 6,620 UI license plate owners will be sent updated plates and a new sticker for free. Other motorists can order the new plates starting today.

Chancellor Robert J. Jones received the first copy: the number "1," which is always reserved for the chancellor.

Illinois drivers may choose from 20 different collegiate plates featuring public and private schools, from Augustana College to all three UI campuses to private schools like Northwestern and the University of Chicago. The list also includes Notre Dame, which is in Indiana but claims many alumni in the Chicago area.

Like other specialty license plates, the collegiate version costs a bit more than the standard issue plates with Abraham Lincoln's image.

First-time buyers pay an extra $40 on top of the $101 registration fee, plus any title or registration costs. The annual renewal costs $27 more than ordinary plates, or $128 total. And personalized or vanity collegiate plates, with specific letters and numbers, cost more.

For every license plate sold or renewed, the corresponding university gets $25 to put toward student scholarships.

That can generate a tidy sum. In 2018-19, the UI's Urbana campus received $173,675 from the program, according to Michelle Trame, director of financial aid. The money goes to in-state students with demonstrated financial need.

"If you choose that plate, everything above what the state gets goes straight to scholarships," said campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

The state allowed the university to design the license plate this time, rather than just using the logo by itself, which allowed the Alma Mater to be included, Kaler said.

The state began offering collegiate plates in 1996.

In all, Illinois has about 100 different specialty plates, including those supporting agriculture, firefighters, nurses, organ donors, state parks, Route 66, violence prevention, and autism and breast cancer awareness.

Speciality plates must be sponsored by a member of the General Assembly and approved by both legislative houses and signed by the governor. The backing organization also must commit that 2,000 drivers will buy the plate.