News Local/State

U of I Increased In-State Enrollment With Slight Drop In Test Scores

Entrance to the University of Illinois Urbana campus

Entrance to the University of Illinois Urbana campus Wikimedia Commons

David Mercer with the Associated Press reported this week that University of Illinois officials made a concerted effort to increase in-state enrollment by increasing financial aid, and accepting slightly lower test scores.  Illinois Public Media's Brian Moline talked with Mercer about his story.

Mercer said the average ACT score for incoming U of I freshmen dropped for the first time in ten years, but that it was a small decline.

"The average ACT score for an incoming, in-state freshman this fall was a 28.28," Mercer said, "and last year it was a 28.86, so it's a little over half a point on the ACT."

He said that U of I officials had been feeling pressure from many different sides to boost the number of in-state students.

"Quite a bit from lawmakers," Mercer said, "And also from parents of kids who found it difficult to get into the U of I, or they could get in, but once they were accepted, they were surprised to find that there wasn't much for them in the way of financial aid."

Mercer reported that the U of I increased financial aid for in-state students by $5.4 million, primarily for low-income families and under-represented groups.

He said increasing in-state enrollment has been a focus for U of I President Tim Killeen since he took the position in November 2014.

"He's said from the minute he got here about a year ago that he values that land grant mission to be a university for the state," Mercer said.

He said in talking to US News & World Report, which compiles college rankings each year, that the slight drop in test scores shouldn't have much of an impact on the U of I's ranking.

"A one-year drop isn't terribly meaningful, at least not one of this size," Mercer said. "They said you wouldn't want to repeat this year after year so it's a trend line going down."