Illinois Promise Annual Report 2020-2021
Chancellor Jones

Throughout the With Illinois Campaign, I am proud to say we raised over $8 million 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, I-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 not only financially, but also their academic and social needs during their time at the university. 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 1400 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 family 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. 




On average, XX% 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 a few 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


In addition to providing financial assistance, I-Promise includes academic and social support during 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 like a fall Kick-Off picnic, a wellness-focused gathering, an ice skating party, and stress relief around finals season by 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, 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 Scholars. 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 introduced our first ever I-Promise Resource Fair in September 2021. After brainstorming ways to keep continuing students connected to the value and benefits of Illinois Promise, we introduced Re-Orientation: small group meetings of about 50 Scholars per session that allowed us to revisit scholarship eligibility requirements, discuss the coaching model and enrichment programming available to students, and helped Scholars “see” each other again, even in the era of remote learning. About 70 percent of continuing Scholars attended one Re-Orientation session.


After brainstorming ways to keep continuing students connected to the value and benefits of Illinois Promise, we introduced Re-Orientation: small group meetings of about 50 Scholars per session that allowed us to revisit scholarship eligibility requirements, discuss the coaching model and enrichment programming available to students, and helped Scholars “see” each other again, even in the era of remote learning. About 70% of continuing Scholars attended one Re-Orientation session.

In fall 2020, Scholars were invited to attend a virtual session that featured a warm welcome from Chancellor Robert J. Jones, comments on the legacy of Illinois Promise and its important standing in the university’s history, as well as a chance for students to ask questions on their minds. It was a fun and lively conversation for all!

We continued to offer our Promising Pathways series, which included conversations with Illinois Promise alumni and staff focused on developing valuable skills targeted toward specific career aspirations. In early 2021, our Promising Pathways discussion revolved around the area of law, with Illinois Promise students who are currently attending law school as well as a recent graduate who now works in the legal field. Also on hand were colleagues from Illinois Pre-Law Advising Services, to help field questions about preparation for taking the LSAT, the admissions process, and how to fund a law school education.


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.

Kartik Patel

“Thanks to I-Promise, I will graduate from Illinois debt-free. Being a first-generation student, I-Promise has allowed me to focus on my education without having to think of the cost. But I-Promise is more than a scholarship. The coaches and mentors I-Promise provided have helped guide me from being a student to a professional.”

-Kartik Patel


Jerry Rodriguez

“I am forever grateful for the Illinois Promise program because it is the reason I was able to be a first-generation college student. It allowed me to represent my family and culture and make the most of my four years studying at the prestigious Illinois School of Architecture. The I-Promise program has not only helped me financially, but because of great mentors, I have also been able to grow over the years to become a leader and make a difference within the school.”

-Jerry Rodriguez


Alistair Nunn

“Illinois Promise has been a great resource during my college career. Through the scholarship, I have been connected to resources on and off-campus, as well as an amazing mentor. The scholarship also allowed me the flexibility to pursue interests outside of school and develop skills that will benefit me in my future career. I am forever grateful to I-Promise and my mentor for supporting me during my time at Illinois.”

-Alistair Nunn


Omar Arroyo

“Illinois promise is not just another academic scholarship; it’s a family. This program has not only opened many doors for me, but it has given me a family within this prestigious institution. As an I-Promise Scholar, I am grateful for every opportunity I have received and every connection I have made. If it were not for this program, I would not be in the position I am today and would not be living a reality that was once a dream. I-Promise has changed my life forever and has given me the resources to be a successful first-generation college student.”

-Omar Arroyo


Jose Ramos

“Illinois Promise has been more than just a scholarship for me during my four years as an undergraduate. It has been a resource that has helped me build a community on campus, get involved with the things I am passionate about, and given me new and exciting opportunities. I believe that Illinois Promise has been a foundational piece of my success at Illinois and in my journey as a first-generation student. I am truly grateful to the generous donors of the scholarship. With graduation being a few months away, it has been a dream come true for me and my family!”

-Jose Ramos


Jose Conde-Coss

“The Illinois Promise program has provided me with so much more than just financial support. It has provided me with the opportunity to obtain an education at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, peace of mind that I will graduate college debt-free, and confidence in myself. Every time I remember that I am an I-Promise Scholar, I am reminded that I am one of the premier students at the University of Illinois. I’m making the most of this tremendous opportunity by excelling in my classes, joining student leadership organizations, and being involved with the Illinois Promise community by serving as this year’s Illinois Promise Council vice president.”

-Jose Conde-Coss


Thank you for being part of the Promise!