Students who are the first in their family to pursue higher education or come from a low-income household continue to be severely underrepresented on college campuses despite high educational aspirations.

While over 80 percent of such students have expectations of going to college in the tenth grade, only 20 percent will earn a bachelor’s degree by the age of 25.

Illinois State University is working to change this trend and has been recognized by nonprofit Strive for College for excellence in inclusion, affordability, completion, and outcomes for low-income and first-generation college students.

Strive for College’s “Strive Five” distinctions are a set of data-based measures of actual performance in five key areas that demonstrate a tangible commitment to students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. The “Strive Five” categories are:


Thirty percent of full-time first-year undergraduate students receive Pell Grants at Illinois State which indicates a substantial student population from low-income families. More than 60 percent of these Pell Grant recipients graduate on time.


Illinois State hosts an annual Diversity Employer Expo each year that serves as a networking opportunity for students to interact with organizations to share diversity initiatives. Recently, a new registered student organization was launched to support first-generation college students socially, academically, and financially. 

Illinois State features multiple Diversity Advocacy student organizations that explore civility and cultural awareness that uphold inclusion on campus. Offices that provide a wide range of support to students include Student Access and Accommodation Services, University College, and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access. These offices strive to support students socially, financially, and academically through successful programming, scholarships, and mentorship. These spaces support all students and uphold Illinois State’s commitment and to diversity and inclusion.


The national public average of loan default rates is 10.8 percent. Illinois State has a much lower average at 3.3 percent, meaning students have less outstanding loans than the national average. Additionally, 78 percent of Illinois State University undergraduates receive financial aid to help pay for college.

“Illinois State University is committed to being as inclusive and diverse as possible, and to helping all of our students reach their full potential.”


Illinois State ranks among the top 10 percent of public universities in graduation rate and retention rate over the past decade.


According to the College Scorecard, graduates of Illinois State earn salaries $12,000 more than the national average ten years after attending.

“Illinois State University is committed to being as inclusive and diverse as possible, and to helping all of our students reach their full potential,” said Director of Admissions Jeff Mavros.” We are very proud to be recognized for the work we’re doing. We will continue to strive to ensure successful outcomes for all of our graduates.”