Enrollment at the University of Illinois system this year exceeded 90,000 students for the first time. University officials say the increase marks the eighth year in a row of record breaking enrollment numbers. This year’s enrollment gains come in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn.
Combined enrollment at the Urbana, Chicago and Springfield campuses increased by 1.2% over last year, rising from 89,270 to 90,343 students. The largest gains came in graduate student enrollment — which increased by nearly 5% over last year. Undergraduate and professional student enrollment remains relatively steady.
System-wide, enrollment increased among Latinx and Black students. Latinx undergraduate enrollment rose from 11,896 to 12,460 — which represents a nearly 5% increase since last fall. Black undergraduate enrollment increased by 1.2%, from 4,147 to 4,196. University officials also say enrollment among in-state undergraduates increased by 1% compared to last fall, rising from 46,786 to 47,269.
Enrollment at the Urbana campus rose to 52,331 this year, up by about 2% over last year. While graduate student enrollment increased to more than 17,800 — up from about 16,300 last fall — undergraduate enrollment fell by about 350 students to 33,492. U of I officials say the increase in graduate student enrollment was driven by online programs. They say more than 2,000 graduate students chose to delay their admission to a later term, compared with about 300 in a typical year; and 277 freshmen undergraduates also requested to delay their admission, compared to 60 in a typical year. Officials say there are 576 fewer international undergraduates on campus this fall due to the pandemic. But new freshman students from China increased by nearly 4% compared to last year, with most international freshman students taking classes online or participating in an “in-country bridge program,” according to a release from the U of I’s Urbana campus.
The U of I’s Chicago campus also set a new record high for enrollment with 33,518 students, up from 33,390 last year. Overall undergraduate enrollment increased by 1.3% compared to last year, rising from 21,641 to 21,921. Incoming freshmen enrollment declined significantly, however — dropping from about 4,400 last fall to roughly 3,500 this year. The campus says undergraduate increases were driven by continuing and transfer student enrollments. Since 2015, undergraduate enrollment on the Chicago campus has increased by near 25%, according to the university.
The Springfield campus experienced a 3% drop in enrollment this fall, from 4,275 last fall to 4,146 this year. Undergraduate enrollment held relatively steady over last fall’s figures, but graduate student enrollment dropped from about 1,600 last fall to just under 1,500 this year.
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Lee Gaines is a reporter for Illinois Public Media.