Illinois Promise Annual Report 2020-2021
Chancellor Jones

Illinois Promise Scholars are some of the brightest, most talented students in the world. You don’t get admitted to Illinois otherwise. You don’t get into college by accident. And you certainly don’t get into Illinois without a lot of hard work, determination, and achievement. Getting here took planning and initiative.

This year we welcomed 450 new students to the Illinois Promise community. They’re living in an entirely new place. They’re surrounded by people they don’t know. But they’re figuring everything out very quickly, and thanks to your continued support, Illinois Promise is here to help them along the way.

-ROBERT J. Jones, Chancellor



Illinois Promise is more than just a scholarship. Established in 2005, I-Promise is a comprehensive program that supports students’ financial, academic, and social needs during their time at the university. I-Promise is awarded to students from the state of Illinois who are academically high-achieving but may not have been able to attend a university due to financial need (family income must be at or below the federal poverty level to qualify, among other criteria). The scholarship ensures that each recipient’s full cost of attendance is covered, including tuition, fees, room and board, and books and supplies. Through the support of more than 900 donors since its inception, the I-Promise program also provides student recipients with mentoring, professional development, 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 2020-21, I-Promise served more than 1400 undergraduate students with representation in all our academic colleges.


I-Promise is designed to help students with the greatest level of financial need. 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. The I-Promise scholarship closes the gap between what they receive and the full cost of their attendance, including room and board, tuition, and books and other needed supplies.




On average, 23% of an I-Promise Scholar’s total educational expenses are provided by the Illinois Promise scholarship.


Donors make the I-Promise program possible for our students. Since 2005, more than 900 donors have helped the university provide opportunities and pathways to future success for our high-achieving Scholars.

The university is committed to providing the Illinois Promise scholarship to every qualified student. Each year, the number of students who are eligible increases, so the generous support of donors is key to ensuring the opportunity for an Illinois education is accessible to all.


Jerry and Joan Reel

We are pleased to provide educational opportunities for the next generation of students. In this regard, we feel that it is important to balance academic and social activities. My wife and I met at Illinois and we are currently in our 57th year of marriage. It is our hope that the students we help, will then help new students in the future.

-Jerry and Joan Reel

LAS ’63, 66; LAS ’63

Education is our most important asset. Illinois Promise propels brilliant young men and women into a bright future. I’m grateful to help a program that inspires students to achieve their greatest potential.

-Wayne Ziebell


In addition to providing financial assistance, I-Promise also brings students together for special events and programming. As each cohort begins their time at the university, they go through a tailored orientation with other I-Promise Scholars. From there, they are invited to community-building social events and gatherings where they can engage with staff, mentors, and peers. I-Promise also offers all recipients the opportunity to be matched with a mentor, as well as regular individualized coaching from the I-Promise staff. In 2020-21, support for Scholars included:

Over 300 new Scholars met with us via Zoom for virtual community-building and an introduction to the many opportunities and resources available through Illinois Promise.

Hundreds of Scholars attended virtual events like semester kick-offs, a campus trivia game, a wellness-focused gathering, as well as in-person offerings like bowling, arcade games, spring semester survival pack distribution, and painting/decorating personalized flower pots.

From August 2020- August 2021, our team had about 1400 individual student interactions, coaching students through challenges, big decisions, and connections to on and off-campus resources.

67 new students were matched with a mentor. Data shows that, overall, students who take part in the mentoring program have higher second-year retention and higher four, five, and six year graduation rates versus students who do not participate.

We hosted a suite of events, including Re-Orientation, Promising Pathways, and programs with partners like The Career Center and The University of Illinois Extension.

In lieu of a large in-person gathering, we held an awards and recognition distribution event for our 2021 award winners and graduates, where we handed out certificates, Lokai bracelets, luggage tags, and more. In addition, we hosted a special virtual ceremony in early April. Roughly 1 in 3 graduates earned I-Promise Distinction honor cords for their academic performance.


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.


The students who are part of I-Promise are what makes this program special. I-Promise Scholars take the experiences and opportunities provided to them and follow their own unique pathways to future success.

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!