U of I reports record high number of applicants

U of I reports record high number of applicants (Tribune illustration\ / August 26, 2012)

The University of Illinois received nearly 48,000 applicants this year across its three campuses, a number the university says is a record high.

According to the university, 31,454 prospective freshmen applied for the Urbana-Champaign campus’ estimated 6,900 available seats. The Springfield campus received 1,553 applications for about 300 spots, and the Chicago campus received 14,976 applications for about 2,900 spots.

Both the Urbana-Champaign and Springfield campuses application pools were at a record high, while Chicago’s was reported as a “near-record.”

University of Illinois President Robert Easter said about 12,000 students were admitted to the university’s three schools this year, or about one-in-four were accepted this year.

The challenge for the three universities is first selecting the students out of a large pool and then finding necessary financial aid, Easter said.

“One thing I can say that characterizes the applications this year is there seems to be an increase in areas where clearly there’s a career path,” Easter said. “I think that indicates students are worried about finding jobs, and their parents are probably are encouraging as well.”

According to the university, the three campuses had an all-time high enrollment of 77,635 students last fall. Individual enrollment last fall for the Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield campuses was 44,407, 28,091 and 5,137, respectively.

University of Illinois at Chicago Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares said the economy is likely a large reason interest in higher education is at an all-time high.

“Jobs aren’t plentiful, and I think people are retooling themselves in this economy,” Allen-Meares said.

In his first year as president of the university, Easter said his early focus has been on understanding budgets and focusing on stability.

“Over the next several months, we will give quite a lot of attention to the quality of our education mission – and in some places – rebuilding faculty,” Easter said.

Classes at each of the three campuses begin Monday.

bdoyle@tribune.com