'Most diverse class ever' arrives at U of I

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) – University of Illinois leaders say record attendance numbers show a high level of diversity in the school's freshman class.

Information released Wednesday shows a record fall freshman enrollment of 7,609 students. Of that group, 22.2 percent comes from what the school called “underrepresented backgrounds” and another 22.1 percent are first-generation students. The percentage of first-generation students at the school has been rising for years; it’s up from the 21.9 percent reported in 2017.

"We're excited to welcome this new class to Illinois," said Chancellor Robert Jones. "They are the most diverse class ever. They represent our largest number of first-generation college students ever. And, once again this year, we are the largest provider of undergraduate education to Illinois residents. These students are already making history here even before many of them have put away their campus maps. We can't wait to see what they do in the next four years and beyond."

The majority of the class – 5,847 freshmen to be exact – came from inside of Illinois. From an international standpoint, the class represents 36 countries instead of a previous total of 31.

"We were pleasantly surprised by our enrollment of Illinois residents," said Andy Borst, the admissions director.  "We exceeded our target of 7,500 freshmen because significantly more Illinois residents are realizing the excellence and return on investment of an Illinois education."

Kevin Pitts, vice provost for undergraduate education at the U of I, says he’s excited about the changes the university is seeing.

"We are very pleased with the size, diversity and quality of our incoming freshman class," he said.  "We plan to maintain the size of our undergraduate population while continuing to push our competitive advantages and market position to enroll the best classes possible. We are working on some exciting new initiatives, such as the new Illinois Commitment program, that will help us to accomplish our future enrollment goals."

Total enrollment at the university (49,339 students) broke a past record of 47,826. The U of I has 33,673 undergraduate students – an increase of 49 students from 2017 numbers.

The school says it has one of the most diverse Big Ten campuses, with 1,093 freshmen having Hispanic or Latinx backgrounds and another 475 coming from African-American heritage. 

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