Big changes are in store for Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora.
The brainiac boarding school, usually referred to as IMSA, has always been open only to Illinois residents. It holds 650 students, who pay very nominal costs, based on family income.
But now, thanks to a new law, IMSA can enroll students from outside Illinois — or even outside the country. They will have to pay about $50,000 per year.
School president Jose Torres hoped to use those dollars to build a big, new dorm. But since lawmakers don't want to decrease the number of Illinois students to make room for out-of-staters, that new dorm has to come first.
“We made commitments that 650 Illinois students would continue to come to IMSA, and so we can’t really begin to bring non-Illinois students until we have additional beds,” Torres says.
The IMSA board is considering a variety of plans. The campus currently has seven residential “cottages” that each accommodate at least 100 students. One option would be to build an eighth cottage to make room for non-Illinois students. Another option would entail constructing a brand new, much bigger dorm, in two separate phases.
The new law limits out-of-state admissions to no more than 25 percent of the student body. Torres predicts the first out-of-state students may enroll in August, 2022.
That’s not the only change. IMSA currently offers 10th through 12th grades; under the new law, IMSA will begin admitting 9th graders.
Current eighth graders shouldn’t get excited, however. Torres says it will take a few years for the staff to design curriculum and other infrastructure for younger students.
“That will not happen, guaranteed, it will not happen for next school year, even though we have the authority, now that the law has been changed,” he says.