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      U. of Illinois trying to attract rural students

      University of Illinois administrators say the number of students from rural counties is shrinking - a trend they're hoping to reverse.

      The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports 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.