What Remains Today?
What Remains of Project 500 today? It certainly helped to boost diversity, as can be seen in this graph. It certainly made it easier for newly admitted students to become involved with specialty programs and cultural houses. It certainly was crucial in the creation of African American Studies and other minority study programs in the University of Illinois as well. All of these examples are beneficial and have even spread to other Universities, but is it enough?
While the program did initially help to bring underpriveleged students to campus, there has not been much of an increase since the 1980s. The five percent African American population does not accurately represent the twelve percent population of high school graduates in the state of Illinois. In addition, the program does not necesssarily succeed in addressing the concerns of the students involved. Students who are not given as many opportunities in high school are not as successful in the college environment and tend to struggle. In addition, there continues to be resistance to broadening opportunities for admission from people who believe a “flagship” university should focus on educating the very best students and not on improving access for everyone. The university saw the statistical boost in enrollment as a victory and left it at that. Enrollment has stagnated over recent years and many officials are left wondering why. It could be due to lack of funding for programs such as Project 500. It could be due to the reactions of students who came to the University of Illinois and found it to be not as accessible as they were led to believe. Or it could be just a lack of sustained interest in the topic from the University's end.
Whatever the answer, while the program has been helpful so far, it is clear that its job is far from done. The University needs to continue its work in this area in order to make sure the program's goals are achieved.