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State

Some Illinois public universities see decline in enrollment

CHICAGO – Most public universities in Illinois have seen enrollment decreases this year as they recover from a two-year state budget impasse, but enrollment continues to increase at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The state operated without a budget from July 2015 until this July, when the Legislature overrode Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a spending plan and tax increase, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Universities, such as Southern Illinois at Carbondale and Eastern Illinois University, saw a dip in enrollment this year. Both schools saw double-digit declines with their incoming freshman classes.

Western Illinois University’s incoming freshman enrollment also dropped from about 1,530 students to about 1,200.

“Students and parents were concerned about public higher education in Illinois, and many made their college decisions before the budget impasse was resolved,” said Jack Thomas, president of Western Illinois University.

Public university officials said the budget battle in Springfield is a critical factor in the declines. They said that although the budget crisis has been resolved for now, it will take years to schools to recover.

“It’s turning a fairly large ship,” said Rob Anderson, president of State Higher Education Executive Officers Association in Boulder, Colorado. “Students right now are making their enrollment decisions for next fall. Some will feel bolstered and might want to choose an Illinois college where they wouldn’t before, and others might want to see how this trend plays out.”

The University of Illinois still saw a nearly 3 percent increase in enrollment from nearly 81,000 to more than 83,300 students.

President Tim Killeen said the increase reflects the university’s push to provide life-changing opportunities for more students and build on a pipeline of world-class graduates.

“Our commitment to affordability, access and academic quality fosters a global reputation for excellence that continues to attract the best and brightest students from across our state and nation and from around the world,” Killeen said.

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