University of Illinois administrators say the number of students from rural counties is shrinking, a trend they're hoping to reverse. 23 counties, mostly in southern and western Illinois, have sent an average of two or fewer students per year to any of the university's three campuses during a five-year period. This year, there are 600 students from 37 so-called "non-core" counties, down about 40 percent from 2003. Officials say there's a variety of issues attracting students, some of whom may not feel comfortable at a large university and may have competitive financial aid packages from smaller, private schools. They're offering scholarships to high-achieving students from underrepresented counties. And admissions officers are working on outreach to transfer students from rural community colleges.
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