ISU President Larry Dietz said campus leaders will meet soon with McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael about improving election service for the April municipal contests.
"We have another conversation that's going to be coming up relatively soon with some of our students leaders and some of our Student Affairs staff and myself and some of Kathy Michael's staff and see how we can improve the voting," said Dietz.
There were long lines and hourslong waits to vote last November and two years ago. Dietz said in an earlier meeting just after the 2018 election, the clerk blamed part of the delay on the fact the Brown Ballroom was not available because of Bone Student Center renovations.
"The Brown Ballroom is renovated and now open. And we're interested as a university in trying to figure out ways that we can help our students vote in whatever election," said Dietz.
Dietz said ISU might also be willing to make other buildings available for polling places if the county clerk budget permits.
He said he also encourages students to register to vote ahead of the April 2 election day to avoid lengthy processing times.
Gov. JB Pritzker is proposing an increase of $1.3 million for Illinois State University in his draft budget. Dietz said that would be nice if it materializes, but overall it's much better to have a budget than not. He said even the proposed 5 percent increase would not restore funding to FY 2015 levels. After the two-year budget deadlock, state funding for ISU dropped to its lowest level since the 1980s. Dietz said the 5 percent proposal would get the institution back to the early 2000s.
Even having a tentative budget target might be helping ISU. Dietz said it's still early, but enrollment signs for fall 2019 are encouraging.
"Our first time in college applicant pool is up 30 percent over this time last year, which is really terrific. Our transfer applications are up 12 percent above last year. Our admitted numbers are up about 16 percent over where we were this last year," said Dietz.
Dietz said the academic quality of those admitted is holding steady.
He said it's possible the rise in applications is because prospective students and their families are regaining confidence in the Illinois system now that two years of budget deadlocks are over.
"The optimism of having a budget and the optimism perhaps of maybe having a reinvestment in higher education may be sending a signal to some students that they're going to apply. Perhaps they didn't have that ambition because of the budget debacle. So I think some of those folks are coming out of the woodwork," said Dietz.
Diversity of applicants is also improving. Dietz said African-American admits are up 7 percent. Latino admitted students are up 23 percent compared to this time last year and Asian students admitted are up 28 percent, said Dietz.
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