6 State of the University
State of the University

State of the University

It is no ordinary work which we are set to do, and it comes to us under no ordinary circumstances. We are not here to reproduce, in this new locality, some old and well-known style of college or university. The hungry eyes of toiling millions are turned, with mingled hope and fear, upon us, to see what new and better solution we can possibly offer of the great problems on which their well-being and destiny depend.

- John Milton Gregory 1868

Portrait of John Milton Gregory

Chancellors Letter

Dear students, faculty and staff,

Try to imagine our state 100 years from now and our university’s role in that journey.

I believe we are a university today that is positioned at the intersection of every road forward for our state. From workforce development, educational attainment, innovations and discoveries that drive economic development for Illinois to social justice and equity to build more resilient communities — every one of these paths forward is going to run figuratively right through this university.

There is no other institution in this state that has the capacity, the vision to translate our missions of teaching and learning, discovery and public engagement into real, measurable and positive impact for the citizens of our state and beyond. No other institution has the audacity to believe we can operate at this scale. And no other institution has the record of accomplishments that demonstrates our ability to back up our words by our actions.

I want to share with you just a few of our accomplishments from the past year, showing how, thanks to your efforts and ingenuity, Illinois continues to be strong and inspiring in the present, yet ready to lead confidently into the future.

Robert J. Jones Chancellor

Signed Robert J. Jones

Moving Forward Boldly

What does it mean to think and act boldly?
How do we construct a strategic plan that gives our community the greatest flexibility, freedom and support to implement their answer to that first question?

At the University of Illinois, we often discuss the decentralized organization of our university and we all know that it can be challenging. But we also have a century-and-a-half of evidence that this is the best way to foster transdisciplinary exploration, build fluid and nimble networks for collaboration and to empower the people who embody the soul and spirit of this university to set our collective course.

The greatest achievements that have come from Illinois have nearly all started with one of our faculty, students or staff who had the audacity to set about solving an impossible problem. And eventually they found resources, people and support to deliver a solution that shocked the world.

At the start of the spring semester, we will publicly roll out the Boldly Illinois framework.

Boldly Illinois

The Boldly Illinois plan helps us reimagine the land grant university for the 21st century, providing tools to let individuals pursue their own passions and priorities aligned with our core values. We want Boldly Illinois to be a framework that encourages everyone to ask their impossible questions, while making it easier, faster and more efficient to connect with the others in our university community who will help find the unexpected answers.

Providing Access

The Illinois student body is a visible example of the impact our university is having throughout the world.

This fall we welcomed the Class of 2027 to campus — the largest new class in our history, which contains the largest number of in-state students in nearly two decades.

Class of 2027 on the football field in the shape of a capital I
8,325 new freshman,
the largest new class in our history

35,467 undergraduate students
6,304 new graduate students
56,403 total enrollment
  • A diverse student body: more than one-in-five of our first-year undergraduates identify as African American, Hispanic or multiracial.
  • 24% of the new members of this class are the first generation in their families to attend college.
  • We’re the largest provider of undergraduate education in our state: this new class marks the largest number of in-state students in nearly two decades.
  • The Class of 2027 is the 5th class under the Illinois Commitment scholarship program that guarantees four years of free tuition to Illinois residents with a family income of less than $67,100; we expect about one in three of our new Illinois resident freshmen will be here thanks to Illinois Commitment.
  • Students graduate with less than $25,000 in student loans on average.
  • 55% of our undergraduates — more than half — will leave with ZERO debt.

Graduates and Alumni

Our graduates continue to find jobs, enroll in graduate school or begin volunteer programs at a truly impressive level.

  • 95% of our 2021-2022 graduates secured a job, enrolled in a graduate program or took a volunteer opportunity within six months of graduation.
  • 75% of in-state graduates who began a job or graduate program said they stayed in Illinois for those opportunities.
  • And for those who took full-time jobs, they did so with an average STARTING salary of $74,974.

Illini Success

Faculty Excellence

The excellence of our faculty determines the success of our institution. Illinois faculty are recognized for their accomplishments at the very highest levels in the world.

We have aggressive plans to retain our best and brightest and to recruit and to grow our faculty.

  • We are investing more than $50 million in the next five years for new faculty hiring. We are moving quickly and strategically towards a goal of 2,000 tenure track faculty members.
  • Colleges made 19 new hires last year under a program that funded additional hires from the same search.
  • And we approved four new cluster hiring proposals from colleges that will be launching their searches this year.

Strengthen Community

We have launched our All Campus Climate Assessment. The survey will provide us with critically important information about the environment here. Please complete the survey and be honest in your responses.

We celebrated the results of projects funded in the first year of our Call to Action Research Program and launched the call for proposals for the next year.

The campus Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Office continues to deliver on our promise to build trust and accountability with Tribal Nations as it completed its second repatriation.

We are investing to make our campus and community safer with the establishment of a new campus Threat Assessment team and with a new public safety agreement with the City of Champaign that has seen our University of Illinois Police Department take over responsibility for more of the Campustown area.

We held the first two public convenings of the Campus-Community Compact to Accelerate Social Justice, which is focused on programs and initiatives that will lead to better lives and opportunities for those living right here in Champaign County.

We launched the Illinois Virtual Partnerships with Schools, using technology to easily and directly connect state K-12 students with mentorship and tutoring from Illinois students. The proof of concept for the platform will be finalized in August with a pilot planned in the fall.

We are a lead partner in the development and implementation of Hope Village, a tiny homes community for unhoused, medically fragile individuals in Champaign-Urbana.

This spring, we opened the Salaam Middle East and North Africa Cultural Center — a vibrant exciting new resource for Middle Eastern and North African students and the entire Illinois community.

We saw the philanthropic momentum from our enormously successful “With Illinois” campaign carry on this year. We raised more than $350 million, which included a record number of 116,000 gifts.

Advancing Scholarship

Our $730 million research and scholarship enterprise continues to push the edges of human knowledge across the entire disciplinary spectrum.

  • We continue to be central to the success of the Discovery Partners Institute and the Illinois Innovation Network with our faculty, partnerships and programs serving prominent roles in a range of projects that span our state.

    Discovery Partners Institute

    Illinois Innovation Network

  • The Humanities Without Walls initiative led by our Humanities Research Institute awarded more than $1 million in new multidisciplinary research team grants, a clear reminder that Illinois houses one of the nation’s most active incubators of interdisciplinary, collaborative humanities work.

    Humanities Without Walls

  • We were recently awarded a new National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center. The $30 million Center for Quantitative Cell Biology will use cutting-edge imaging and simulation tools to create whole-cell models to transform our understanding of cellular function.

    Center for Quantitative Cell Biology

  • We received a second seven-year, $13 million award from the National Institutes of Health to continue the Illinois Kids Development Study

    Illinois Kids Development Study

  • Earlier this year, the Department of Defense announced 31 new awards through its prestigious Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program. Members of the Illinois research community are leading or participating in six of those new projects.
  • We led the statewide effort that saw our state win the competition for the new, $250 million CZ Biohub project that will be centered in Chicago. This Chan-Zuckerberg Foundation-funded initiative will develop new engineering tools to model and measure human biology in ways that will revolutionize how we understand disease in unprecedented detail.

    Biohub Project

  • Our Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation received a new five-year, $120 million round of funding from the Department of Energy.

    Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation

  • We now lead three of the nation’s 22 federally funded artificial intelligence institutes.
  • We also now rank third in the nation in Department of Energy research funding and we have seen our NIH funding increase by nearly 40% over the past five years.

Excellent Rankings

Illinois is ranked:

35th among all national universities, which is an improvement of six spots over last year
12th among public universities, one spot higher than last year

If you look at all of our current graduate and undergraduate rankings, we have:

34 programs in the top five
57 programs in the top 10
87 programs in the top 20

More rankings

Innovations for Illinois

Governor J.B. Pritzker introduced his Innovate Illinois program, an effort to aggregate state public and private resources to successfully compete for unprecedented federal funding in areas that will allow Illinois to become the center of gravity for innovation.

Innovate Illinois is led by the Urbana-Champaign campus as a public-private collaboration to coordinate our state’s institutions of higher education, national labs, industries and legislative offices in the pursuit of federal awards for infrastructure, research and economic development.

Governor Pritzker is chair of the group, and I am serving as co-vice chair with Jenny Scanlon, the president and CEO of UL Solutions.

Innovate Illinois is an “all-hands” effort to position our state for an even better and brighter future. And I think his choice to have us lead it makes a pretty compelling argument for my starting position today — all roads forward for Illinois are going to pass through our university.