The story of the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois begins on Navy Pier at the end of World War II. With the GI Bill offering educational opportunities to large numbers of returning veterans, the university recognized the need for educating students in Chicago as well as Urbana-Champaign.
In 1946 a two-year undergraduate program opened on Chicago’s Navy Pier. Students could spend two years taking classes at the Pier, but to complete their degrees they had to transfer downstate. Because many parents could not afford to send their children away to school, they lobbied for a university right here in the city.