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September 28, 2018

U of I System honors hundreds of top high school seniors
Annual program promotes opportunities for underrepresented students

CHICAGO – The University of Illinois System honored hundreds of high-achieving high school seniors today during an annual event that promotes opportunities for Illinois students from traditionally underrepresented minority groups and geographic regions across the state.

Nearly 1,000 students, parents and high school counselors attended the 35th annual Salute to Academic Achievement (SAA) at the Chicago Hilton. The event includes a luncheon recognizing students’ accomplishments and a college fair that connects them with officials from the system’s three universities to address questions about admissions, programs and financial aid.

President Tim Killeen said the event is part of growing outreach efforts to attract even more of Illinois’ most talented students to the system’s universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.

“We want to connect the state’s best-and-brightest students with our best-in-class universities, providing opportunities that will transform their lives and supply the next-generation workforce that will move Illinois forward,” Killeen said.

Launched in 1984, SAA honors academic success and encourages attendance by students from underrepresented groups, including African-Americans, Latinos and students from Illinois counties with relatively low enrollment at the system’s universities.

The U of I System’s commitment is reflected in fall enrollment numbers released earlier this month that saw system-wide enrollment grow nearly 3 percent to almost 85,600 students, a record for the sixth straight year.

System-wide enrollment of African-American and Latino undergraduates was up for the seventh straight year. Enrollment of African-American undergraduates increased 3.7 percent, from 3,898 to 4,041, while undergraduate Latino enrollment was up 8.5 percent, from 10,347 to 11,226. Combined, African-American and Latino enrollment comprises nearly 27 percent of the system’s undergraduate enrollment.

The U of I System also saw a 2.9 percent increase among in-state undergraduates, from 44,655 to 45,955. Illinois students comprise more than 80 percent of undergraduates enrolled this fall across the system’s three universities.

About 400 students attended the event – chosen based on academic achievements such as high ACT/SAT scores and grade-point averages – and were accompanied by nearly 600 parents and guests. Students attended a college fair that provided information on each 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 at each university, and application fees will be waived in honor of their high school achievements and attendance at the event.

Similar events spearheaded by the U of I System are planned next month to honor academic excellence and promote attendance by in-state students from southern and northwestern Illinois. The system has taken the lead for the second year in a row, bringing together other public universities in a multi-institutional recruitment effort to stem out-migration of Illinois students to colleges in other states. Studies show graduates tend to stay in the state where they studied, so the out-migration is a loss for Illinois and its economy.

An Oct. 3 event in Effingham is co-sponsored by Eastern Illinois University and the Southern Illinois University System. Northern Illinois University, Governors State University and Western Illinois University are co-sponsors of an Oct. 9 event in Rockford. About 200 students are expected to attend each event.


The University of Illinois System is a world leader in research and discovery, and the largest educational institution in the state with nearly 85,600 students, about 25,000 faculty and staff, and universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I System awards more than 22,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.