* 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.