Chancellor Jones

Throughout the With Illinois Campaign, I am proud to say we raised over $8M in support of the Illinois Promise Scholarship Program. Illinois Promise continues to provide some of the brightest students in our state with access to an Illinois education. It also ensures they have important resources for student success like mentorships, special academic advising, and social programming so they can thrive in their time here. Illinois Promise is a life-changing program, and it would not be possible without donors like you.  

In August, we welcomed 270 new I-Promise Scholars. The students in this cohort did not get into Illinois by accident. Their journey here took hard work, determination, and initiative. It also took your generosity and investment in their futures. Thank you for your continued support of Illinois Promise. I am looking forward to seeing how all our Scholars will excel in their academic pursuits and shape the culture of our university for the better.

-ROBERT J. Jones, Chancellor



Since 2005, Illinois Promise has provided access to an Illinois education for high-achieving students from all backgrounds. The scholarship is awarded to students from the state of Illinois who are performing exceptionally well academically but do not have the personal financial means to attend the university. 

But I-Promise is much more than just a scholarship. It is a comprehensive program that supports students as they pursue their biggest dreams. The Illinois Promise logo includes the phrase, “We’re the Promise,” which we like to describe through the four pillars upon which the Promise is built:


A promise of generosity from donors and the University to help open doors for high-achieving students to help them reach their big hopes and dreams.


A promise from the University to provide an enriching and supportive academic environment and a promise from Scholars to be academically focused and to give their best effort, always.


A promise from Scholars to build community with their I-Promise peers and coaches by supporting each other and getting involved on campus. 


A promise of gratitude from Scholars by making the most of Illinois Promise, expressing thanks, and paying it forward. 

Through the generosity of more than 1000 donors since its inception, the I-Promise program provides student recipients with professional development opportunities, individualized coaching, and social, academic, and service-oriented activities. 


Illinois Promise is open to students from all backgrounds and disciplines, with a majority of Scholars identifying as first-generation students. In 2021-22, I-Promise served more than 1500 undergraduate students with representation in all our academic colleges. 


While the cost of living rises across the country, affordable access to higher education remains an immediate priority at Illinois. I-Promise is designed to help students with the greatest level of financial need. To qualify for the I-Promise scholarship, the student’s household income must be at or below the federal poverty level, among other criteria.  

Many of our I-Promise Scholars qualify for federal and state aid and other grants, but still face costs over and above these forms of aid and what they can earn through campus-based employment. I-Promise assures eligible recipients a financial aid package that covers their estimated cost of tuition and fees, room and board, and books and supplies. 

Over the last four years:



On average, nearly 25% of an I-Promise Scholar’s total educational expenses are provided by the Illinois Promise scholarship.


I-Promise would not be possible without donor support, and as the number of eligible students increases each year, private support has become more important than ever. We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of our donors and their commitment to an accessible Illinois education.  

This year, I-Promise reached our 1000th donor since 2005! As we reflect on this milestone, we are proud to feature two loyal donors who have been giving to I-Promise since the very beginning. 


I give to Illinois Promise because I was a first-generation college student, and it’s that connection that makes it special. It’s my responsibility to nurture and support the future generations of leaders. This program makes me proud that I can support a student in the same position I was in when I went to Illinois.

-Danni Short

MEDIA ’95, donor since 2005

My husband and I support Illinois Promise for one basic reason: we want to help expand access to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to high-quality students who need financial support. I loved my time at Illinois: I received an outstanding education, made life-long friends, and became prepared for the real world. I hope our modest financial contributions to Illinois Promise can help others enjoy those same experiences.

-Meade Whitaker

LAS ’99, donor since 2006


In addition to providing financial assistance, I-Promise includes academic and social support during the Scholars’ entire time at Illinois. Beginning their first week on campus with a welcome orientation hosted by Chancellor Jones, Scholars are invited to community-building social events and gatherings where they can engage with staff and peers. I-Promise also offers all recipients regular individualized coaching from the I-Promise staff. In 2021-22, support for Scholars included:

Over 450 new Scholars met with us via Zoom for a discussion about I-Promise: the scholarship, the support program, and the Illinois Promise community that exists on our campus. Following the webinar, Scholars joined Chancellor Jones for lunch, Illinois Promise swag, and fellowship at the Illini Union.

Hundreds of Scholars attended virtual events and in-person events including a fall Kick-Off picnic, a wellness-focused gathering, an ice-skating party, and stress relief activities around finals season like painting flowerpots and canvases.

For the 2021-22 year, our team had just under 1800 total interactions, coaching students through challenges, big decisions, and connections to on- and off-campus resources.

We hosted a suite of events, including a Resource Fair, Promising Pathways, an information session on admission to the Gies College of Business, FAFSA completion support with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), and programs with partners like The Career Center and The University of Illinois Extension.

For the first time in three years, our Spring Awards Banquet returned to an in-person event. Scholars, guests, and campus stakeholders gathered in early April to celebrate our award-winning students, mentors, and alums, and to recognize our graduating students. Scholar awards were given based on leadership, service, and academic achievements. Approximately 100 of our graduating Scholars earned Illinois Promise Distinction, having achieved cumulative GPAs of 3.5 and higher.

With the return to in-person programming, we held our first ever I-Promise Resource Fair in September 2021. During this event, students were able to directly connect, on a walk-up basis, with critical campus resources, academic support opportunities, and enrichment programs offering that offer our students the chance to really showcase their talents and develop the kinds of skills needed to help propel them to the next steps of their education and future careers. One-hundred and fifty of our Scholars attended the event and campus partners including the Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA), Pre-Law Advising, National and International Scholarships, Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange (IAGE), plus many more were on hand.


I-Promise Scholars make up one of the strongest communities on our campus. Their dedication to their studies and each other is remarkable, and they are tremendous ambassadors to the program and to Illinois.

“To be an Illinois Promise scholar means receiving the opportunity to continue in higher education at a top university. My fellow scholars, amazing leaders, and mentors have positively changed my experience at Illinois. Illinois Promise has given me valuable connections, friendships, and guidance I would not have found anywhere else.”



“As an Illinois Promise scholar, I believe it is a blessing and honor to be able to go to college and strive for academic success without having to worry about any financial burdens. This experience has taught me valuable information, and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with other students to help them on their road to success.”

-Joshua Watson


“Without the aid and opportunities Illinois Promise has given me, I would not be able to attend such a prestigious university and pursue my education. It has given me the tools to get the most out of my time at Illinois by working with mentors, events, and overall leadership. I-Promise has given me the chance to become a first-generation college student. The program has also provided me with new experiences I could never have imagined living in my small town.”

-Caira Butler


“Being an Illinois Promise scholar means I can participate in opportunities I would not have been otherwise able to access. My parents didn’t go to college, and I didn’t realize how many financial barriers existed between me and a bachelor’s degree. I-Promise removed that burden off my shoulders and allowed me to focus on being a student. No other gift or award has been as meaningful or important as my Illinois Promise scholarship. My life would be very different had I not been able to attend college.”

-Emmett Etchingham