I'm a transfer student from Elgin studying a major that is dying, Statistics and Operations Research. There are 2 other Universities in the State of Illinois that offer similar programs, University of Chicago and University of Illinois(UC). One is exclusively expensive, the other costs about 1/3 more and in the middle of nowhere. So I picked UIC.
UIC is what you make of it. Period. If you're expecting to have a guidance counselor hold your hand, HA! UIC is pretty much a public university that is the epitome of Chicago; hard-working, honest, open, demoralizing, yet up-lifting, and tough with broad shoulders. If you're not use to Chicago weather, the place can be cold, literally and figuratively. But like Chicago weather, it can also be pretty amazing and inspiring. Like I said, UIC is what you make it. You gotta do it on your own jack, you're in the most American of cities.
Being a Math/Stats major, all my classes have been challenging. (note: i did all my gen-eds at community college) And the Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science department is a bunch of eclectic math people, like you'd assume.
As for being a commuter schools.... yes and no. Being in one of the oldest neighborhoods of Chicago, UIC doesn't exactly have the ability to foster your traditional campus life. A majority of the students live in the surrounding neighborhoods, University Village, Little Italy, Pilsen, Tri-Taylor, West Loop, Printer's Row, and the South Loop. Those neighborhoods have plenty of college kids out and about. For those that do actually commute from the surrounding burbs and far reaches of Chicago, it can be straining. Mo;st of the time students in that situation spend 40minutes to 2 hours going one way. It ain't easy and takes dedication, but you feel damn good for being able to do it; you'll also find yourself with quite the extra amount of cash.
UIC is a do it yourself school. You have to know what you wanna do and where you wanna go. If you got those two things in mind. UIC will work for you. Conversely, if you don't know what you want out of your college education you may want to stop and think; you might be better off foolin' around at a community college.UIC is the public university of Chicago and it whole-heartily represents Chicago and the Chicago mentality. If you want to be cuddled and have your hand held in college, pay the extra couple grand and go to a private school.