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University of Illinois administrators address possible Quad City expansion, student diversity questions

Altgeld Hall - University of Illinois

URBANA — Faculty and students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign get an annual chance to air grievances and clear up rumors with the president of the university system.

One rumor at the latest U of I Senate’s Annual Meeting of the Faculty was whether the university system is planning to expand to the Quad Cities.

“There’s a lot of interest in that part of the state in what the University of Illinois can provide, whether that be leadership, expertise or intellectual know-how. So yes, we’ve had some conversations,” said President Tim Killeen.

Killeen specified that those conversations were with Moline-based company John Deere and Western Illinois University in Macomb.

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He said the conversation with Western Illinois University focused on how to help the school, which has faced enrollment declines, layoffs and program cuts in recent years. The University of Illinois system has weathered state budget cuts without any loss in student enrollment. 

Slow gains for Black enrollment

African-American enrollment in the University of Illinois system has inched up over the last decade. But it’s still far from representative of the state as a whole.

Senate student representative Gregory Davidson asked the president and Urbana chancellor to address the topic.

The Urbana-Champaign campus admitted more Black and Brown students this year, but not as many chose to attend the university, according to Urbana Chancellor Robert J. Jones.

“The reason for that, in interviewing and talking to people, had to do specifically with the disparate financial impact of COVID-19 on Black and Brown communities,” Jones said.

In 2020, almost seven percent of the undergraduate, graduate and professional students in the University of Illinois system identified as African-American.

That’s nowhere near the 16 percent of Illinois residents who identify as Black, and the gap is greater on the Urbana-Champaign campus.

Jones said that Illinois Commitment has made a significant difference since it was implemented in 2018. The program pays for tuition for freshmen and transfer students whose families make less than $67,000 a year.

Latinx students make up about 17 percent of students across the three universities. This is much closer to the 18.5 percent of Illinois that is Hispanic or Latino.

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Emily Hays

Emily Hays

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.

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