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In Illinois, a Challenge Recruiting Rural Students for State's Flagship University

Fewer high school graduates from rural counties in Illinois are attending the Univ. of Illinois, possibly due to the rising cost of tuition and the "intimidation" of the transition to a large school, according to a recent story in East Central Illinois' The News-Gazette.

While the size of the freshman class at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has decreased slightly, from about 8,200 in 2004 to about 7,200 in 2013, the number of students who matriculate from rural counties has sharply declined. In 2003, there were 1,017 freshmen from rural counties who enrolled, compared to only 600 rural students in the freshmen class during the 2013-14 school year.

The article parses out several possible reasons. Some students may feel uncomfortable or nervous at the idea of transitioning from rural schools in small communities to a large university in a big town. Others may shy away from increasing tuitions and opt instead for a less expensive community college closer to home, especially if they are undecided on a career.

To combat this, officials at the university told The News-Gazette that they are building more relationships with high school teachers and guidance teachers in underrepresented communities. They are also reaching out to students at community colleges to educate those students about transfer options. 

Nationwide, rural students are less likely to attend college than their peers in metro areas. A recent study by an assistant professor of higher education at Texas Tech University found that about 64 percent of rural students pursue postsecondary education, compared to 70 percent of students living in metro areas. Rural students who do pursue postsecondary education are less likely to choose a four-year, private, or highly selective institution, and more likely to attend a two-year college or Associate's college.

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