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U of I, EIU and SIU partner to recruit southern Illinois students
First-ever event seeks to keep high-achieving students in state for college

High school students visit with college representatives at the inaugural Salute to Illinois Scholars college fair in Mount Vernon on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. 
High school students visit with college representatives at the inaugural Salute to Illinois Scholars college fair in Mount Vernon on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. Click image to download a hi-res version. 

September 14, 2017

MOUNT VERNON –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 Tuesday at Mount Vernon’s Doubletree Hilton, 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.

Dunn said the event reflects SIU’s mission.

“Our goal as public universities is to provide access and opportunity to all Illinois students who want to go to college,” he said. “Southern Illinois University was pleased to co-host this collaborative event that showcased the great educational facilities we provide, as well as those of our sister institutions. We are very excited at the prospect of welcoming many of the students who attended the Salute to Illinois Scholars to one of our SIU campuses in the next year.”

Glassman added: “The Salute to Illinois Scholars event in Mount Vernon was an excellent opportunity for all involved, and allowed us to connect with Illinois’ best-and-brightest students and their families. The event sent a clear message that there is an amazing depth and variety of unique opportunities available for students to pursue an affordable, quality college education in their home state.”

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 universities.
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.

The U of I System’s commitment to Illinois students was reflected in fall enrollment numbers released this week that saw System-wide enrollment grow nearly 3 percent to more than 83,300 students. That includes a 2.4 percent increase among in-state undergraduates, from 43,619 to 44,655. Illinois students comprise about 80 percent of undergraduates enrolled this fall.

About 170 students attended the event – chosen based on academic achievements such 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 emceed by Barbara J. Wilson, executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs for the U of I System.

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.


The University of Illinois System is a world leader in research and discovery, the largest educational institution in the state with more than 83,000 students, 24,000 faculty and staff, and universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I System awards more than 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.