Growth Potential: Illinois Tech Sees Application Rates Soar, Fueled by Focus on Career Preparedness


Illinois Tech students

With a focus on its career-ready, adaptable, and market-focused approach to education, including a curriculum designed with experiential learning at its core and geared toward preparedness for the jobs of the future, Illinois Institute of Technology is resonating with students. 

Illinois Tech has experienced a record-breaking surge in applications, with undergraduate applications up by more than 20 percent and graduate applications up by more than 40 percent compared to last year, including consistent applications growth from underrepresented minority students and first-generation college goers, and a 31 percent increase in applications from women. The university’s career-focused approach has contributed to a 78 percent increase in applications over the last four years, and it is also tracking a 47 percent increase in completed graduate applications and a 138 percent increase in point-in-time growth in graduate admits compared to last year.

The increased interest is being attributed to factors where Illinois Tech excels: future earnings potential, economic mobility, career readiness, and proven career outcomes. 

Illinois Tech ranks #1 in Illinois and #35 in the nation for high earnings and economic mobility in a college rankings tool created by the New York Times that allows users to prioritize different factors. The university boasts a strong record of post-graduation earnings, with more than 90 percent of its 2022 graduates obtaining full-time employment or continuing their education through graduate studies. In addition, Illinois Tech’s 2022 graduates report a mean average starting salary of $75,352 for undergraduates and $87,258 for graduates, well above the national average. In fact, Illinois Tech is #1 in the state for lifting students from families in the lowest 20 percent of income to the top 20 percent (Opportunity Insights), #1 in the Chicago region for occupational earning power (Brookings Institution), and #3 in the nation in upward economic mobility among highly selective private universities (Opportunity Insights).

Potential future earnings has been shown to be one of the most important factors influencing application decisions. Recent research from the New York Times and Morning Consult that surveyed 2,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 19 and another 2,000 between the ages of 22 and 30 found that likely earnings after graduation is one of the most important factors in the college decision-making process for college-bound students—rating four times more important than the average among other factors. 

The significant surge in applications and a 25 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment for the fall 2022 semester demonstrates that Illinois Tech’s focus on relevant, technology-focused education through hands-on experience resonates with students.

Economic mobility has been a core component of Illinois Tech’s mission since its founding more than 130 years ago. Illinois Tech is working to fulfill its founding purpose of educating first generation college-goers and expanding access representation in technology: 40 percent of this year’s undergraduate applicants are the first in their family to attend university, a proportion that has remained consistent over the last four years even as total applications grew by 78 percent. In the New York Times rankings, Illinois Tech ranked #4 in the United States, #1 in the Midwest, and #1 in Illinois for high earnings combined with racial and economic diversity.

“The transformative power of education is at the heart of Illinois Tech’s mission,” says Mallik Sundharam, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs at Illinois Tech. “Our consistent growth in underrepresented minority student applications and 40 percent of applications from first-generation college-goers demonstrates our dedication to advancing technology and progress for all and creating opportunities that transcend social and economic barriers.”

Illinois Tech’s flagship Elevate program, launched last fall, embodies its commitment to anticipating future workforce needs and reimagining the future of education. Eligible students participating in the Elevate program gain hands-on experience through outside-the-classroom opportunities such as internships, research, competitions, and study away. 

“With more than a decade of assessment of the student journey—experiences, success, and career outcomes—and after developing a data model with extensive analysis of student success variables, we’ve created the Elevate program as a tailored plan for our students’ academic and career growth,” Sundharam says. “We know that the most effective resumes aren’t merely written in their senior year of college, but are built through a series of meaningful experiences during their precious time with us. Our objective is to help students construct those exceptional resumes with meaningful and impactful experiences, ensuring they graduate job-ready and prepared to succeed in a dynamic job market."

Illinois Tech anticipates that graduates who successfully complete the Elevate program requirements will be positioned to receive a job offer after graduation, perhaps in as short as six months; if they don’t, they may be eligible to receive graduate-level coursework or to acquire additional upskilling at Illinois Tech. 

“Elevate represents a new approach to higher education—not only does this model focus on skills that are industry ready and industry informed, it has the potential through hands-on and virtual experiences to bring opportunities for more students from all backgrounds, allowing them the chance to explore and gain industry experience at leading companies years before their peers,” said Illinois Tech President Raj Echambadi. “We hope that this new model of commitment to experiential learning and lifelong partnership with our students sets a new standard in higher education.”

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 91 percent of employers seek job candidates with work experience, and on average, 80 percent of eligible interns receive a job offer. Illinois Tech’s own data shows the role that hands-on experience plays in promoting successful outcomes: students who have completed an internship are more than 25 percent more likely to find full-time employment and have at least $10,000 higher median starting salary than peers who have not completed an internship. 

Illinois Tech applicants have made clear the importance of career readiness: among those who chose to enroll at Illinois Tech in fall 2022, “preparation for career and job opportunities” was selected as the most influential factor by nearly half (48 percent) of respondents in a recent survey. Among the other top reasons, 37 percent said “internships and other applied and experiential learning” was a persuasive reason to choose Illinois Tech.

“We all know that learning doesn’t begin at Convocation and end at Commencement,” says Sundharam. “We have looked deeply at the students of today and the market demands of tomorrow and took the opportunity to tailor our academic offerings by focusing on student success before, during, and after their time at Illinois Tech. We’re working to shift the definition of what it means to truly bring value to our students throughout their careers.”