UIC TA Handbook – UIC Student Profile

UIC Student Profile

By Thomas Moss
Associate Vice Provost
UIC Office of Undergraduate Affairs

By Julie Smith

Former Director
UIC Office of Data Resources and Institutional Analysis

UIC students represent a diverse population from rich and varied backgrounds. They often have challenging demands on their time from a variety of sources external to the university. They do come to UIC, however, with a firm commitment to complete a degree. UIC is committed to providing our students with high quality advising, instruction, and support to ensure students have the resources to confront all obstacles, have a challenging and productive first year, and graduate in four years.

Student Enrollment at UIC

There are several important characteristics which help profile and define the students at UIC. One of the most important aspects of the student body is its diversity. African Americans, Asians and Latinx total 50% of the overall UIC student headcount and 60% of undergraduates. For fall 2016 first-year students, there is not a single racial/ethnic group which represents a majority among the 3,307 entering students. African Americans, Latinx and Asians comprise 69% of the first-year cohort. As a result of this mix within its student body, UIC ranks as one of the most ethnically diverse Research I institutions in the country (http://bit.ly/2oCPrH5) and consistently is higher than the Big Ten schools in minority enrollments. Demographic profiles for the campus and for new first-year are included on Table 1.  

The University of Illinois at Chicago enrolled 29,120 students in fall 2016 at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level. The undergraduate headcount is 17,959 and represents 62% of the total enrollment.  Graduate enrollment totals 8,060 and the professional programs enrolled 3,101 students in the College of Applied Health Sciences, College of Medicine, College of Dentistry, College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy.

Living on Campus, Working for Pay and other Characteristics

One-third of first-year undergraduates live on campus, and 14% of all undergraduates live on campus. For the two-thirds living off-campus, the median number of hours spent commuting a week is 6-10 hours. More than half of first-year students work for pay, with about 20% working on-campus and another 33% working off-campus. Of those working, the median number of hours worked is 11-15 hours a week.  Seniors are more likely to work, with 29% working on campus and another 56% working off campus. Of those working, the median number of hours worked is 16-20 hours a week. Following are some additional characteristics of UIC first-year students in fall 2016:

  • The average age is 18.
  • 39% are first-generation college students.
  • 57% are Pell Grant recipients.
  • The 25th percentile ACT composite score is 21 and the 75th percentile is 27.
  • 27% were in the top 10% of their high school graduating class, and 60% were in the top quartile.
  • 92% are from Illinois, 5% from out-of-state, and 3% are international.

Undergraduate Retention and Graduation Rates

The Fall 2015 entering first-year cohort had a one-year retention rate of 80% (entered fall 2015, returned fall 2016). Our one-year retention rate has ranged from 78% to 81% for recent entering cohorts. The six-year graduation rate for the Fall 2010 entering first-year cohort was 58%. Our six-year graduation rate has ranged from 57% to 60% for recent entering cohorts. The University has a growing number of transfer students. In fall 2016, there were 1,958 new transfer students (compared to 3,307 new first-year students (non-transfers)). The five-year graduation rate for the Fall 2011 cohort of new transfers was 76%. The five-year graduation rate for transfer students has ranged between 71% and 77% for recent entering cohorts.

It is evident how critical the first-year experience is to entering freshmen, and it is what happens in the classroom that primarily shapes that first-year experience.

Another factor that has an impact on the time to complete a degree is the level of preparation when the student enters the University. Recent results of freshmen placement exams (taken prior to enrolling at UIC) point to the following problem areas:

  • Approximately 17% of new first-year students placed in developmental first-year writing courses.
  • 32% of first-year students also place in developmental mathematics courses which do not earn degree credit for the student but are necessary to complete to move forward in math.
  • About 34% of the 2016 first-year class could not register for general college chemistry in their first term.

The progress towards a degree for a student who places into preparatory English and math is going to be much slower than for those students who come prepared for college level courses.

Student Preparation and Course Selection: Some Challenges

UIC has doubled its graduation rates over the past 18 years. Despite this accomplishment, there remain challenges. In 2012, UIC began a strategic planning effort aimed at improving student success rates, which has resulted in the Student Success Initiative, an aggressive campus-wide effort to identify factors that lead to undergraduate success with the goal of further intervening to increase student retention and graduation and achieve racial/ethnic parity. Advisors and instructors play an integral role in the success of our students.

One important initiative that arose from the Student Success Initiative is “Finish in Four,” a campaign to encourage students to complete at least an average of fifteen credit hours each semester and complete their degree in four years. Most degrees at UIC require completing 120 credit hours, yet for tuition purposes, 12 hours is considered full time. Students who take twelve hours per semester will not graduate on time, with each additional year costing students about $70,000 in college expenses and lost income. The information in this section is aimed at supporting students so that they can do well at UIC, graduate on time, and move on to their careers, graduate school, or professional school.

Transitioning to college can be difficult for all first-year students. As noted above, placing in developmental coursework is one factor that affects retention and graduation. The human brain continues to develop until near the age of 25 so the intellectual, socio-emotional, and interpersonal development of undergraduates continues throughout their undergraduate experience. Relevant for the college experience, one of the major goals of advising and support initiatives is to increase help-seeking behavior in undergraduates.

UIC provides a number of resources for students as they prepare to become college students, throughout their first year, and throughout their four years at UIC. Some of those key resources are briefly described here:

  • MATH Placement Re-Testing Options: Prior to registering at Orientation, students may retake math placement tests up to five times after completing a learning module.
  • Summer Orientation: First-year students attend a two-day orientation program and meet with academic advisors to select courses so that they can discuss their educational goals, placement test results, and degree requirements.
    • Students also have the chance to meet some of their peers and where they have the opportunity to get an idea of what their first year will be like.
    • Advisors focus on course selection and assisting students in creating an optimum first-semester schedule.
  • Summer College and Co-Requisite Options: For students placing in non-credit-bearing developmental  courses, UIC has a number of options available for students to advance themselves starting in the summer before school begins:
    • Summer College provides-
      • Students can advance to college-level coursework in math, writing, chemistry, and physics.
      • Students engage with peers and instructors and learn to navigate campus.
      • A number of other programs expose students to their disciplines and college life.
    • Co-Requisite options in Writing and math
      • Students who place into developmental writing or math who do not elect to take Summer College to take a co-requisite option.
        • Students placing in ENGL 071 can take a special course in addition to their college-level course in writing (ENGL 160) to begin in college-level writing and stay on track.
        • Students placing at the lowest math placement (MATH 075) can take one level higher (MATH 090) with a co-requisite course to ensure they can advance more optimally and reduce the number of semesters they are behind in math.
  • UIC Convocation provides a kickoff event for all new students to UIC the Sunday before classes to begin undergraduates’ engagement on campus.

Initiatives, programs, and opportunities to increase successful transition and persistence throughout the first year continue once a student is enrolled.

  • First-year experience courses: Almost all of the colleges on campus have courses that provide an orientation to college in different formats. There are initiatives in place to increase the opportunities for students to take advantage of these courses.
  • Early Alerts Program: The Early Alerts Program provide the opportunity for early intervention in courses that have a high number of first-year students. Instructors enter alerts for students getting a D, F, or U in a select number of 000, 100, and 200-level courses (writing, chemistry, math, and basic foreign language courses). Alerts are provided to advisors so that they may intervene with the student and assist the student in navigating through issues earlier in the term so that students can improve their performance in the course.
  • Midterm Grading for 100-level courses: Instructors teaching 100-level courses are expected to post midterm grades during Week 9 in order to provide vital information for students and advisors to determine student’s progress in courses. Timely participation by instructors and TA’s is essential with Early Alerts and midterm grading.

Advising and transition coaching also play an integral role in student success. A number of advising initiatives are in place at UIC, including mandatory freshman advising appointments in the fall and spring term in all of the undergraduate colleges. Advisors have increased their engagement with their students with most colleges assigning advisors and reaching out to students at specific points in time throughout the student’s first year. The larger advising network also provides supplemental advising for students in our support programs. In addition to monitoring students’ progress to degree, advisors also provide referrals to any number of resources including undergraduate research opportunities (undergradresearch.uic.edu), scholarships (ossp.uic.edu), career development careerservices.uic.edu), and many others.

Research has shown that students who seek academic help and who participate in study groups receive better grades in their courses than those who do not. This is especially true for courses in math and the sciences. Students learn a great deal from each other when they are encouraged to meet, study, and work together in a class. Research points to several ways to help students improve their performance in class:

Provide early feedback to the students about how their performance. It is not uncommon for those students who are having the greatest difficulty in class to find it the hardest to seek help because seeking help can be overwhelming.

  • If tutoring is available for those who are taking the class, be sure that the students are aware of when and where help is available. The Flames Tutoring Network gathers all of the various academic help resources on campus. The Flames Tutoring Network will include information on all of the learning centers including the Writing Center, Mathematical Sciences Learning Center, the Science Learning Center, and the Language Studio.
  • If your class can benefit from study groups, try to organize you students and encourage them to meet and study together.

It is critical for instructors to encourage students to seek the help that they need to do well. Success in one class, particularly early on, can turn into long-term success at UIC, and dramatically increase the likelihood of graduation in four years.

Many UIC students face challenges outside the classroom that affect their performance in class including financial hardship, personal concerns, home and food instability, etc. Being attentive to student needs in this area, advisors and transition coaches are able to provide referrals to a range of campus units and services including the Dean of Students and the Counseling Center. The Dean of Students has created the U and I Care Network to provide options and resources for students facing personal difficulties and to empower other students and university personnel to take action when such concerns arise. Vital resources and activities for students are also provided in the Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change, e.g. Disability Resource Center, Gender and Sexuality Center, Rafael Cintron Ortiz Latin American Cultural Center, etc. and with UIC’s Undocumented Student Liaison.

Resources abound at UIC and finding them in the decentralized landscape can be difficult. Ask UIC was created to provide a gateway to resources. You can visit ask.uic.edu to link to all campus resources .

Faculty and teaching assistants play an essential role in the success of our students and small instances of referring a student for help, following up on a conversation, early feedback, etc. make a large impact in student persistence and success.