SPRINGFIELD – A proposal to automatically admit students to any public college or university in Illinois if they meet certain standards is running into opposition, primarily from the University of Illinois system.
Rep. André Thapedi, D-Chicago, who was unsuccessful in pushing through similar legislation in 2018, is sponsoring a revised proposal this year to guarantee that any student who graduates from an accredited high school in Illinois and who meets certain academic standards would be guaranteed admission to any of the state’s public higher education institutions.
Thapedi told a House committee Thursday that the primary aim of the bill is “to keep our best and our brightest students here in Illinois,” many of whom, he said, leave Illinois to attend college elsewhere.
But he also said it’s intended as a form of affirmative action for minority students and other under-represented groups on Illinois college campuses. He specifically pointed to U of I’s Urbana-Champaign campus as a source of concern because of its small proportion of minority student enrollment – 5.2 percent African-American and 9.3 percent Hispanic.
U of I officials said while they support Thapedi’s goal of keeping more Illinois students in the state, and of increasing minority enrollment in higher education, the lawmaker’s proposal could lead to the automatic admission of students who are not prepared to succeed at institutions like U of I.
“As a tier-one research institution, we are not configured at Urbana-Champaign to provide a great deal of remedial education for students who are not ready for an advanced college curriculum,” said Kevin Pitts, vice provost for Undergraduate Education at U of I. “Fortunately, we have a community college and a regional university system in this state that can help in that respect, and as a consequence we take well over 1,000 transfer students a year.”
Thapedi responded that under his plan schools wouldn’t be forced to admit unqualified students. He said the bill provides a two-part test for automatic admission: the students must have graduated in the top 10 percent of their class and they must have ACT or SAT scores that meet the benchmark qualifications for admission to the school where they are applying.