Thursday, January 19, 2017

U. of I. plans tuition freeze, major enrollment growth

University of Illinois is rolling out an ambitious effort to boost enrollment by 15 percent over the next five years, growing the three campuses to more than 93,600 students.

School leaders are aiming to add around 12,150 students by 2021, pinpointing increases in undergraduate programs at the Chicago campus, and graduate and online programs in Urbana-Champaign.

The move comes as the university system tries to attract more Illinoisans and underrepresented minorities. As part of the battle to remain an attractive option for those students, university leaders also are poised to approve a tuition freeze for incoming Illinois students for the third straight year.

U. of I. President Timothy Killeen is scheduled to detail the enrollment plan at Thursday's board of trustees meeting in Chicago. Trustees also are to vote on the tuition rates.

"We have found that a lot of the reasons that qualified students leave the state is on the basis of cost," Killeen said. "We need to be competitive on cost. We need to do that to preserve our talent."

All three campuses were directed to create enrollment strategies last summer, school officials said.

Springfield would add more than 1,000 students by introducing new programs, improving marketing for its online courses and broadening its recruitment territory. Five new undergraduate programs, two new concentrations, two new graduate certificate courses and one new master's-level program would be added in Springfield. Officials also would more aggressively target downstate Illinois and the East St. Louis area for prospective students.

Should the initiatives prove successful, officials project the three schools would grant 10,000 more degrees between now and 2021. That also would be an aggressive goal. The schools awarded 21,517 degrees in 2016, about 2,100 more than in 2011.

Should trustees agree not to raise tuition for in-state freshmen, it would be the longest streak of unchanged admissions rates in four decades. Administrators are proposing the same base tuition for first-year Illinoisans that the university first established in the 2014-15 school year. Incoming students would continue to pay $12,036 at Urbana-Champaign, $10,584 at UIC and $9,405 in Springfield.

This story appeared in the Chicago Tribune on January 19, 2017.

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