The University of Illinois at Chicago started off in 1859 as a small pharmaceutical college in what is now the near west side of Chicago. Closed in its early years due to the Civil War and the Chicago Fire, the college eventually grew into a large medical center that also encompasses Rush Medical Center, St. Luke's Presbyterian hospital, and Cook County Hospital (yes, the one ER takes place in). The undergraduate college was founded independently in 1946 to temporarily accommodate students on the GI bill after WWII. It was built on Navy Pier, and was nicknamed "Harvard on the rocks."
During the 1960's, the Navy Pier campus became overcrowded, which spurred students to demand a new, more accommodating campus. Richard J. Daley supported the cause and lobbied for a new site to be constructed somewhere within the city. His vision was one of a publicly supported urban college that would become a leading research facility. It was decided that the new "Circle" campus be built on the intersection of Harrison and Halsted streets, despite the protest of many members of the community. This was the beginning of a continuous battle between the residents of the surrounding communities (which include Little Italy and Greek town) and UIC concerning issues of expansion and urban renewal.
The undergraduate college grew and eventually combined with the Medical Center in 1982. In 1988, it opened its first dormatories, and despite it being a commuter school by tradition, a large new housing complex is being opened this year. Currently only 10% of students live in campus housing.
Though U of I Champaign tends to draw the more promising students and faculty, UIC is improving its reputation and body of research. It provides an inexpensive education (for Illinois residents, at least), and its urban setting and diverse student population are assets other U of I branches can't offer. It is well known for its nursing and dental programs, as well as its medical, engineering, and urban planning schools.
Student population: 25,000
Undergraduate tuition (2001-2002): $4,000 (1yr)
Mascot: Flames (named for the Chicago fire, which started near the campus)