Partnership aims to recruit southern Illinois students

people visiting tables/booths in a large room

More than 150 high school students from southern Illinois attended a college fair Sept. 12 to learn more about the University of Illinois and other public universities in Illinois.

More than 150 high-achieving high school students from across southern Illinois attended a first-ever event hosted by six of the state’s public universities to keep talented students from the region in Illinois for college.

The inaugural Salute to Illinois Scholars college fair and luncheon connected students with more than 100 admissions and academic staff from the University of Illinois System’s universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield; Eastern Illinois University; and Southern Illinois University’s campuses in Carbondale and Edwardsville.

The event, held Sept. 12 in Mount Vernon, also provided a unique first-hand perspective during discussions between current students from each of the six universities and their presidents – Tim Killeen, president of the U of I System; Randy Dunn, president of the SIU System; and EIU President David Glassman.

Killeen said attracting and retaining more students from southern Illinois and across the state is a priority to build on the U of I System’s service to both students and the state, citing studies that show most college graduates stay in the state where they earn their degrees.

“We want to expand the connection between our state’s best-and-brightest students and its best-in-class universities, where they can nurture the talents that will transform their lives and collectively supply the next-generation workforce to help move Illinois forward,” he said.

Killeen said the southern Illinois event is especially important because the region includes several counties with relatively low student enrollment at the U of I’s three campuses.

He said he plans to make it an annual recruiting tool as the U of I System works to halt an out-migration of Illinois undergraduates that has left Illinois second only to New Jersey in the net number of students lost to colleges in other states. In 2015, 45 percent of college-bound high school graduates in Illinois enrolled out of state, up from 29 percent in 2002.

About 170 students attended the event – chosen based on academic achievements such as high ACT scores and grade-point averages – and were accompanied by about 200 parents and guests. Students attended a college fair that provided information on each participating university and received certificates of achievement during a luncheon.

Students were encouraged to apply to each of the six participating universities, where their application fees will be waived in honor of their high school achievements and attendance at the event.

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