Despite a small decrease in the Black student population, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has seen an increase in nonwhite student enrollment since fall 2019.
Admissions data, publicly available on the university’s website, show the university has seen a net increase in nonwhite student enrollment in the past four years. Nonwhite races and ethnicities logged by the university include Hispanic, Black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (NHPI), “other,” multiracial and international students.
The change in the number of students enrolled, divided by self-reported race and ethnicity, from fall 2019 to fall 2023 was:
- A small decrease from 2,815 to 2,805 for Black students.
- A 16.3% increase from 5,324 to 6,197 for Hispanic students
- A 34% increase from 7,894 to 10,582 for Asian students
- A 21.4% increase from 1,464 to 1,778 for multiracial students
- A 16% increase from 10,809 to 12,541 for international students
White student enrollment decreased from 21,138 to 20,660 in the same time period, about a 2% decrease.
When considering multiracial Black students, a number tracked separately in the data, the Black student population slightly increased from 3,569 to 3,576. Data shows that the Black population on campus has been predominantly lower than the other racial backgrounds of students.
On June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court made a 6-3 ruling that restricted the use of affirmative action in higher education. This decision marked the end of a longstanding four-decade precedent, which had permitted colleges and universities to take race into broad consideration in their admissions procedures.
Now, the university considers factors such as if a student came from an urban or rural school, if they had access to college preparatory classes and if a student’s parents attended university.
“We’ve had a holistic review process that considers all sorts of factors and that [race] has been one of them,” Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs at the university, said.
She said that will not be true next year. Instead, the admissions team will look at socioeconomic factors, geography, family education status, and more.
“An individual student’s ability to succeed here is not always reflected in just a test score, for example,” Kaler said.
Despite race no longer being a key determining factor, admissions demographics have shown consistent, and partially stronger diversity among newly enrolled students. However, the Black community still struggles with representation.
Black Students for Revolution, an organization on campus that advocates for Black student voices, has initiated an initiative called Project1000 that seeks to graduate 1,000 Black students every year and increase the number of Black faculty and staff at the university.
“We are under the guise that this community is very diverse, as we see in the numbers specifically, but the Black population here is not as big as we all believe,” Black Students for Revolution co-lead Khalia Mullin said.
Christopher Harris, senior director of executive communications at the university, said the university will continue to seek information about student race and ethnicity.
“CommonApp and myIllini applications will continue to offer an optional question about an applicant’s race/ethnicity for federal and state reporting purposes,” he said. “This information will no longer be loaded into our iAdmit admissions review system. Our admissions reviewers will no longer consider an applicant’s race/ethnicity.”
However, the school still aims to uphold economic mobility.
“Our admissions process will continue to consider the unique educational context of students who hope to be the first in their families to graduate from a 4-year university, and those who are eligible for free and reduced lunch,” Harris said.
The undergraduate admissions process will continue to focus on the diverse, lived experiences and perspectives of individual applicants from all corners of the state. The underrepresentation of Black students is known to the university, and students and faculty are working to bridge this gap despite Supreme Court rulings.