URBANA – One quarter of undergraduate students at the University of Illinois' flagship campus are from out of state, a departure from years past when university officials pledged to limit enrollment of non-Illinois residents, according to a published report on Sunday.
The change comes as the enrollment of international students has skyrocketed and just six years after a plan to boost out-of-state numbers was met with so much public outcry that university officials scrapped the idea.
The Chicago Tribune reported in its Sunday editions that the policy shift is expected to continue in the future to help the university. Out-of-state students pay more in tuition and international students also pay thousands more on top of that in a surcharge.
Admissions director Stacey Kostell said the shift in policy occurred accidentally first, then it became an enrollment strategy as state funding declined. She said there are benefits beyond financial reasons, including a diversified campus.
"There have been conversations about where we would like to go as far as enrollment. People are comfortable where we are. I think that allows us to serve the population of Illinois, but still have a nice mix," Kostell said.
Enrollment at the Urbana-Champaign campus is nearly 32,000, more than 3,500 students a decade ago. But there are 200 fewer students from Illinois while the number of international students skyrocketed. The university enrolls 4,447 undergraduates from other countries, up from 649 in 2000.
The policy shift has drawn some criticism from parents and students.
"We should serve our own state students first," parent Tom Slivovsky, whose son goes to the University of Illinois, told the Tribune. "It is unfortunate that because of the state of Illinois' finances, University of Illinois' admissions office may need to consider international students and their fees in their place."
Part of the reason is also that more Illinois students are deciding not to attend the university while neighboring states are offering lower tuition to Illinois students.
The Tribune reports that 45 percent of residents offered admission to this fall's freshman class accepted the spots, the lowest percentage in at least a decade. It's down from 53 percent five years ago.