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Kennedy blames U of I’s African-American enrollment decline on predecessors

Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018

* I told you last week that the University of Illinois’ African-American enrollment fell while Chris Kennedy was chairman of the board of trustees. WCIA’s Mark Maxwell followed up with the candidate

In his campaign speeches, Kennedy holds up higher education as the life boat to help rescue people from an island of poverty. But while he was Chairman of the Board at the University of Illinois, he repeatedly increased the cost of tuition while African American student enrollment suffered.

“When you have a 27 percent increase of tuition between 2009-2014 for in-state residents, you are talking about at least $2,500 extra in money,” said Gus Wood, an African American Studies Ph.D. student at the Urbana-Champaign campus. “I tie the rising of tuition directly to the pricing out and the lack of African-American people on the campus,” Wood said.

[Evan F. Moore, an adjunct journalism professor for Chicago’s DePaul University who has written extensively on education, violence and Chicago culture] said, “When the school raises tuition, that pushes out students, especially poor students. There is definitely a correlation there.”

The year before Kennedy became board chairman, African American enrollment was at 2,596 students, which made up 6.44 percent of the total student population according to data compiled by the Division of Management Information. The university raised tuition by 9.5 percent in 2010, 6.9 percent in 2011, 4.8 percent in 2012 and 1.7 percent in 2013.

In 2009, African American enrollment slipped slightly down to 2,572 students before a significant dropoff down to 2,276 in 2010. Black student enrollment eroded each consecutive year Kennedy was in charge for a total decline of nearly 15 percent until the admissions office reported a slight uptick in 2015, his final year on the board.

Kennedy denied there was a correlation between rising cost of tuition and the broadening diversity gap on campus during an interview with WCIA on Monday morning.

“No, I don’t think that is what occurred,” Kennedy said, suggesting the problems were already set in motion before he took the job. “I think the major decline in African American enrollment at the University of Illinois occurred between 2009 and 2010 before anything the new board did could have possibly affected those outcomes.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

19 Comments
  1. - Because I said so.... - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 9:55 am:

    University BOT’s don’t determine what the tuition rates need to be. That is the done by the university administration in conjunction with financial officers. The university administration presents budget and tuition proposals to the board. The board then votes. In most cases, the boards approve the recommendations of the administration.

    To imply Kennedy recommended tuition increases is off base. Also, the states decline in funding to public universities began in 2005. Most if not all the publics were forced to raise tuition to make up for the decrease in state funding.


  2. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 9:55 am:

    —-Kennedy denied there was a correlation between rising cost of tuition and the broadening diversity gap on campus during an interview with WCIA on Monday morning.

    Even with scholarships and discounting this is unlikely true because first generation students are especially sensitive to price since they often have less information about how college pricing works (African-Americans are more likely to be first gen).

    This identifies the problem with Kennedy’s candidacy pretty well. It’s fair to say the problems were set in motion before him, but he doesn’t highlight what he and the board did to address those issues once he was in place.


  3. - Roman - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 9:56 am:

    If and when JB decides he needs to go negative, this is likely to be in his line of fire. Hard to imagine Kennedy pulling an upset without big African-American support.


  4. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 10:02 am:

    ===The board then votes===

    That’s all you need to know here.


  5. - Thomas Paine - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 10:07 am:

    Lemme paraphrase:

    “I’m not in charge.”

    Chris Kennedy’s defense is that something happened the year before the became chairman and he just watched for five years. Is Best Team in America moonlighting for Kennedy?


  6. - allknowingmasterofracoondom - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 10:20 am:

    Yea, and how many admins has the university hired during that time? How is the student to teacher ratio changed?

    Because all these universities bloat is finally coming to roost, and the AA community is taking the brunt.


  7. - Terry Salad - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 10:27 am:

    Kennedy had a cavalier attitude about money and academic freedom while he was on the BOT at UIUC. From the Salaita case coverage in e Chicago Tribune:

    As a final irony, consider that the chairman of the trustees, Christopher Kennedy, is the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. His approach to the Salaita controversy is to see it as a matter that can be papered over with a financial settlement: “We want to be fair, but we don’t want to be pushovers,” Kennedy told the Chicago Tribune. “Either they will sue or we will settle.” That’s what happens when questions of academic principle get reduced to dollars and cents–the university comes to believe it can trample any principle, as long as there’s money to make it go away.


  8. - NorthsideNoMore - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 10:31 am:

    The cost of going to school in ChamBana is high, (tuition and rent) the town campus get a B grade at best. Unless you want to be an engineer or a agribusiness person there are better / cheaper options. Socially the high profile sports teams are abysmal not a lot of HS freshman (when they start looking at college) going “all in” for the Illini these days. For those inclined the UoI Greek system seems to still be going strong.


  9. - Shytown - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 10:31 am:

    Kennedy re African American student decline U of I: “Nothing to see here”

    Kennedy re Chicago’s African American population decline: “Rahm has racist policies”


  10. - Ron - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 10:36 am:

    Dumb idea and I hardly drive.


  11. - Plainfield liberal - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 10:41 am:

    A few questions here come to mind and the answers should be taken into consideration before jumping to any conclusion:

    First, who thinks that Kennedy really went out to raise tuition to marginalize African American students? Really? Not buying that. I believe he actually has a heart for minority populations.

    Were students that entered into the University the year prior locked into a tuition rate (as were NIU students for example)? If so, how can this correlate to enrollment drop-offs in one year?

    What is the statistical drop out rate for African Americans at U of I historically? Did these students transfer to another state college or just drop-out totally? How can we know?

    Despite my lack of overall trust for university BOT, I see No racist policies here.


  12. - Anon0091 - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 11:22 am:

    Sounds like academic strategic gentrification.

    I kid of course because that’s just ridiculous. But no more ridiculous than Kennedy’s claims about Rahm.


  13. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 11:26 am:

    Rich…He was a very bad choice to be on the board. No conection to the UofI and a typical east coast private school attitude. Just another lame app by Gov Pat. No feel for the place just politics for the Dems.


  14. - Arsenal - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 11:43 am:

    ==“No, I don’t think that is what occurred,” Kennedy said, suggesting the problems were already set in motion before he took the job. “I think the major decline in African American enrollment at the University of Illinois occurred between 2009 and 2010 before anything the new board did could have possibly affected those outcomes.==

    That doesn’t seem completely consistent with Maxwell’s numbers, nor does it wash that a tuition increase wouldn’t affect enrollment.


  15. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 11:54 am:

    —-Despite my lack of overall trust for university BOT, I see No racist policies here.

    I don’t think anyone set out policies to purposefully harm African-American students, but the question is did Kennedy take into account how policies affected an underrepresented population. What did he do to minimize the impact of policies that likely disproportionately affect that population?

    He was the Chair and he wants to be Governor. He should be thinking about these things.


  16. - Arsenal - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 12:49 pm:

    ==He was the Chair and he wants to be Governor. He should be thinking about these things.==

    Especially given that he accused Rahm of similar “benign neglect”.


  17. - Responsa - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 3:49 pm:

    The conflation of top foreign students being accepted in record numbers to the prestigious academic programs at the U of I (bringing their coveted high tuition payments with them) with the lessening of qualified Illinois students and not just AA students (many of whom attend on scholarships/grants/reduced tuition) must not be overlooked or ignored. I don’t know that this economic transfer was orchestrated or exacerbated by Kennedy’s BOT, but it is a fact that it’s been going on for a while– ostensibly while helping improve the university’s financials. Many of us alums have raised issues with this for good reason, but calling it “racist” seems like a stretch.


  18. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 5:25 pm:

    Spot on, Responsa.

    As a fellow alum, I fully agree with your assessment.


  19. - filmmaker prof - Tuesday, Jan 16, 18 @ 6:22 pm:

    I can answer the question about the student to tenure line faculty ratio at UIUC: it the highest it’s ever been this year. Largest student body ever, two consecutive years of losses of faculty.


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