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Western Illinois University hopes to double QC enrollment with expansion

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Western Illinois University continues to expand in the Quad Cities, as Wednesday, state and university leaders unveiled a $42 million expansion of the Riverfront campus.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, WIU President Jack Thomas, and other state and local leaders were on hand to cut the ribbon on Phase II of WIU-Quad Cities. The expansion includes three new buildings, interconnected by sky walks, with a quad in the middle. The buildings house classrooms, a library, and student service offices, including admissions and academic advising.

"It's unique. I think it's really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in Phase I that was completed a few years ago, and now Phase II completed right now. Building a brand-new college campus, a university from scratch, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said A.J. Loss, president of Bush Construction.

The new buildings ensure there is plenty of room for growth, as university leaders hope to double enrollment by 2020.

This fall, there are just over 1,500 students on the Riverfront campus.

"It's going to help our student body grow and increase. We hope to get at least 3,000, some even say 5,000. We're the only public institution here in the Quad Cities, so these are exciting times in the history of Western Illinois University," said Jack Thomas, president of WIU.

Thomas said he believes that eventually the more established campus may attract more traditional, first-year college students. For now, though, Thomas said he's focused on increasing the number of classes offered in the Quad Cities.

"We want to continue to add more academic programs here," said Thomas.

Between Phase I and Phase II, $60 million has been spent on the WIU-QC campus, funded by the Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program.