CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey is talking college admissions. If elected, he said he will have a plan to make sure 90% of U of I students are from Illinois. Bailey said the school’s priority should be educating people from the state.

Other schools have tried similar policies. Under Texas law, 90% of freshmen at University of Texas-Austin have to be from the state. In the University of North Carolina system, the out-of-state population has been capped at 18% for over 30 years.

“Friends, it’s time to put Illinois students first at the University of Illinois,” Bailey said in an online video.

To do that, he wants to change state law, and gradually alter the proportion of admitted students to guarantee nine out of every 10 seats go to graduates of Illinois high schools.

“Ensuring our students have access to a great education shouldn’t be controversial,” he said.

But the plan is controversial. 70% of last year’s freshmen were from Illinois, and students I talked with said that’s enough.

“I applied for the program I wanted to get into, and I got into it. I feel like they don’t discriminate based on where you’re from right now anyways, so I don’t know why he would want to change that,” U of I freshman Dylan Biala said.

U of I junior Jaelah Cole said anyone who thinks the school is a good fit for them should have the opportunity to apply.

“Some people from Illinois don’t even think Illinois is a good fit for them, so I believe out-of-state students deserve their place here if they choose so,” Cole said.

U of I senior Husnain Raza said he knows students from out of the state and out of the country, and he feels in-state students have plenty of opportunities to get an education.

“People apply wherever they want, and the numbers kind-of end up being what they are,” Raza said.

U of I’s Associate Chancellor Robin Kaler said in a statement their goal is to attract a strong, high quality applicant pool with a diverse blend of students from in-state, across the country and the world. Kaler said the “biggest challenge” when it comes to enrolling in-state students is many say they can’t afford tuition. She said the school has addressed their financial concerns by offering programs like the Illinois Commitment, which offers free tuition for students whose families earn $67,100 a year or less.

The school admitted a record-breaking number of freshmen last fall – just over 8,300. 5,835 of those were from Illinois, and 2,468 were not.

If Bailey’s proposal passed, the in-state undergraduate population at U of I would increase gradually over four years. Next year, he wants 79% of the freshmen class to be from Illinois. For the 2024-25 school year, 82.5%. For the 2025-26 school year, 86.5%. By the 2026-27 school year, they’d reach 90%.