How UIC Is Changing the Face of Higher Education
UIC is the key to Chicago’s vision of a 21st century economy that will help drive progress for the city, the state and the nation. It provides a transformative education for large numbers of young people; produces the highly skilled workforce to meet the needs of nextgeneration companies; molds the well-rounded citizens who are essential to a vibrant, progressive global city; and fosters the breakthrough discovery that fuels new waves of innovation. We are committed to leadership that will build on our success, and expand UIC’s capacity to serve society and solve its most pressing challenges.
—Robert A. Easter, University of Illinois President
UIC is well aware of the expectations it has placed upon it, and it welcomes them with open arms. The future can be scary; the unknowns, the uncertainty, and the anxiety about things out of your control, can cause some people and institutions to fail. UIC is not one of them. Over the course of the last 10 years they’ve slowly, but consistently, been preparing themselves for this opportunity. They’ve known that the future was going to look different than the past and they wanted to place themselves in the driver’s seat of that future. It hasn’t always been the easiest road, true change and success seldom are, but it’s a road that has already begun to show reward. UIC knew that to embrace the coming changes they would have to change the course of the university in a very meaningful way.
First, they cemented their status as one of the premier research universities in the country. Under the current research classification by the Carnegie Foundation, UIC is one of only 96 American universities to receive the highest designation (“RU/VH”). This allows them access to a tremendous amount of federal and private grants, and makes UIC a desirable place for some of the best and brightest minds. One of the primary beneficiaries of this designation is the medical college. They currently operate the largest medical school in the U.S. and research is one of the byproducts of over $412 million in yearly expenditures. A perfect example of this is the groundbreaking new program, Innovation Medicine (IMED). The program looks to prepare students for working at the cutting edge of where medicine and technology meet. They’re looking at making significant contributions towards the cures for Type 1 Diabetes, Cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Interdisciplinary research has the potential the reshape the world in ways we haven’t envisioned yet.
Another big step was focusing on who was studying at the university; the students. The changing demographics in Chicago, and the U.S., has been on the minds of many in the ivory tower of academia for a long time. UIC saw the writing on the wall and decided to act in a way that put them ahead of the curve. They placed a heavy emphasis on recruiting Hispanic students, particularly first generation college students. By offering a range of financial support, academic assistance, and on-campus clubs, UIC was able to encourage young Hispanic students to enroll. After reaching an enrollment of more than 25% Hispanic students the university was able to receive the Federal designation of a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). This allows them access to grants from the Department of Education that aren’t available to non-HSI universities. By serving an underserved population UIC hopes to transform who receives college degrees and offer them an opportunity to contribute from their own unique experiences to society at large, after they graduate. Higher education provides a great platform from which these graduates can stand on as they attempt to better the world.
Finally, one of the other aspects they have paid particular attention to regarding student enrollment was increasing the percentage of students who are low-income or come from low-income families. In the Fall semester of 2018 over 53% of new freshman came from homes where the income was less than $37,000 yearly. By providing a way for these students to get access to an education that they may not have otherwise received, they are changing the future. A college degree has long been statistically linked to a more satisfying, and rewarding, life. It’s also been proven that once one person in the family goes to college, every generation that comes after them is more likely to go. It’s a perfect example of how setting standards motivates people around you. Low-income, first generation students are who America needs to help set her on the best path going forward.
It doesn’t end there. The university is building a new engineering building, new classroom space, and renovating or replacing dorm rooms. You can’t have a cutting-edge school with outdated facilities. Continuing to grown and improve will help attract the type of talent that they are looking for. But UIC knows it’s more than a numbers game, it’s about the social and moral obligation they have to the community. UIC has made a point to emphasize that they are a public, land-grant university. Chancellor Michael Amiridis has stated that this is a special designation and that UIC has an obligation to meet the expectation that come with such honor. By revamping their recruiting process and focusing on research, they have done exactly that.