Bradley University President Gary Roberts announces retirement plans

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Chris Kaergard of the Journal Star @chriskaergard

Monday

May 20, 2019 at 7:56 AM May 20, 2019 at 7:56 AM

PEORIA — Bradley University President Gary Roberts will retire shortly after the next academic year finishes, the school announced Monday morning.

A nationwide search is expected to begin this summer for his successor.

Roberts will depart when his contract expires at the end of May 2020 — a half-century after his graduation — capping a 4 1/2 year stint heading his alma mater.

He announced the decision last week at a meeting of the school’s board of trustees.

“I love Bradley and all of the people I have worked with here,” he said in a prepared statement. “Despite the challenges that Bradley faces as higher education is disrupted and transitions its business model, I am optimistic about Bradley’s future, and I still hope to be a part of it.”

The comparatively brief tenure for Roberts is not unexpected. He’d been planning his retirement when was recruited to the hilltop during 2015 after service heading Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law, and put those plans on hold to return to Bradley.

“All along it was assumed that I would have a limited tenure,” Roberts said in a prepared statement. “Next year, I will be 72 years old, and Donna and I want to have some healthy years to enjoy life and check several items off our bucket list.”

He started on campus in January 2016 as the school’s 11th president and the third alumnus to serve in the position.

Under Roberts, the school began construction on a long-discussed business-and-engineering convergence center. The first phase of that $100 million-plus project is planned to open for students in the fall.

The past year also saw two of the university’s flagship teams return to prominence. Bradley’s speech team — for which Roberts competed during his student days — won both national championships for the first time since 2013, and the men’s basketball team won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament for the first time in 30 years and competed in the first round of the NCAA tournament since 2006.

The school has also launched a faculty salary initiative — addressing one of the loudest employee complaints from the pre-Roberts era — and expanded its online course offerings.

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May 20, 2019 at 08:03AM

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Bradley University President Gary Roberts announces retirement plans

Commentary: Illinois should fund an aggressive capital plan to help save its state universities

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Editor’s note: The following was submitted by University of Illinois President Timothy L. Killeen,  Northeastern Illinois University President Gloria J. Gibson, Chicago State University President Zaldwaynaka Scott, Northern Illinois University President Lisa C. Freeman, Eastern Illinois University President David M. Glassman, Southern Illinois University Interim President J. Kevin Dorsey, Governors State University President Elaine P. Maimon, Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas, and Illinois State University President Larry H. Dietz.

For too long, Illinois has been near the top of a list of states with declining population. Regrettably, many of our public universities are seeing the same outmigration as talented students go elsewhere for a college degree.

Nine of 12 Illinois public universities have declining enrollment, and nearly half of the state’s college-bound public high school graduates are enrolled at campuses in mostly neighboring states. Illinois is losing its future, literally. The impact is real, affecting not just our public universities, but also dragging down local and statewide economies.

To reverse the tide of outmigration by our state’s best young minds, lawmakers and the governor need to make a significant investment in higher education, including a “vertical capital,” or buildings, component. Our universities cannot be allowed to deteriorate further.

Funding to repair and upgrade existing buildings and to support new, state-of-the-art facilities is critical to ensure Illinois higher education remains at the forefront of the discovery, innovation and workforce development that drive a vibrant economy.

A capital plan would also create thousands of jobs and spur economic activity statewide. Projects supporting research and development would increase our universities’ prospects for new or additional federal and foundational research grants.

Illinois has gone without a funded infrastructure plan for a decade. Since then, the total backlog of deferred maintenance at our public universities has ballooned to $6.7 billion, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. So while more than $2.1 billion in capital requests were submitted to the state this year for the most urgent needs at Illinois’ public universities, billions more are needed for repairs, renovation and construction.

This lack of a capital plan has forced some universities to shift funds away from their core educational missions to close the gap. Across the state, maintenance has been deferred, leaving buildings to deteriorate. Classroom and laboratory updates have not kept pace with changing technologies. Crucial projects have been delayed considerably or shelved indefinitely.

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At Eastern Illinois University, faculty and students in the circa-1937 science building use tarps to protect research materials from leaky pipes and roofs, and the building’s outdated electrical system cannot support new, state-of-the-art equipment.

The University of Illinois System has more than $2 billion in deferred maintenance across its three universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The Southern Illinois University System has more than $1.1 billion in postponed fixes at its universities in Carbondale and Edwardsville. The majority of buildings at Chicago State University need complete roof replacement or major repair. An outdated heating system can’t compete with frigid temperatures at Governors State University.

And Western Illinois University is still waiting on appropriations for a performing arts center from a decade ago in Macomb, where they have not seen state-funded construction of a building since 1975 — the Malpass Library, in which book stacks are covered in plastic because the roof leaks.

Northern Illinois University has 10 academic buildings yet to undergo a first round of significant modernizations.

Illinois State University and Northeastern Illinois University each spend $4 million to $6 million a year from operating funds — money that otherwise could go to academics — to ensure buildings are safe and functioning. The fine arts complex at ISU has been waiting a decade for $52 million from the state for construction and renovations.

Facilities are a major factor in attracting quality faculty and students.

Without a capital plan, the crisis will only worsen. If you don’t routinely repair and renovate, the cost goes up. For our universities, that means continued disrepair, less funding for academics, sub-standard technology, higher tuition, and the unfortunate consequences of more students leaving Illinois for college.

As our public university buildings deteriorate, so, too, does the reputation for excellence these institutions have nurtured for over a century. The state should fund an aggressive capital effort.

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May 19, 2019 at 08:27PM

Commentary: Illinois should fund an aggressive capital plan to help save its state universities

Tom Kacich | It’s a great time to go for a stroll on UI campus

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If you can find your way through the obstacle course, this is an ideal time to get reacquainted with one of the best things about living in East Central Illinois: walking around the heart of the University of Illinois campus.

All over the central campus — especially on its west and south sides — streets, sidewalks and bike lanes are closed for repairs. Want to visit Lincoln Hall? You’re best off parking on the Urbana side of the Quad and strolling over to the west side. The Ice Arena? No way, the sidewalk is torn up, and the building is closed for the summer. When I peeked in there on a warm day last week, the ice was melting, and it was still a cool refuge.

But with a little extra effort, this is an excellent time to get to a less crowded campus and enjoy the flowers, fountains and fragrance of flowering trees.

Let’s start our walking tour at Alma Mater, the large 1929 sculpture by Lorado Taft that serves as a welcome to campus at Green and Wright streets. For more than 30 years, though, it was in obscured space behind Foellinger Auditorium. It’s in a better place now.

Just south of Taft’s great work is the 123-year-old Altgeld Hall with its bell tower and marvelous second-floor circulation room. Altgeld originally was the university library, and the circulation room once was topped by a stained-glass window; it was removed more than 50 years ago. In 1927, Altgeld became home of the School of Law, and its interior dome is inscribed with the names of U.S. Supreme Court justices, an homage to the building’s second use. All of this, along with a series of murals around what is now the mathematics library, is visible from a third-floor balcony.

Outside of Altgeld is usually where you will find the greatest population of the seemingly fearless squirrels that populate the campus. These varmints could be about the 100th generation of the squirrels that UI President Andrew Draper brought to campus in 1901.

East of Altgeld is the Illini Union, which opened in February 1941. A year later, Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, cut a cake to celebrate the building’s birthday. It had been built in part with money from the Roosevelt-era Public Works Administration. The Union has since been expanded and remodeled and offers a grand view of the Quad.

East of the Union is the newly remodeled Natural History Building, a modern miracle in that a decrepit 1890s structure has been reborn as a high-tech, 21st century classroom space.

In a shady spot between the Union, Altgeld and the Henry Administration Building lies the gravesite of John Milton Gregory, the first president of the UI (first known as the Illinois Industrial University). Gregory died in 1898, He’s the only UI president buried on campus, although former Presidents Edmund James, David Kinley, Arthur Cutts Willard and David Dodds Henry are buried nearby at Roselawn or Mount Hope cemeteries.

South of Gregory’s grave is the Henry Administration Building, which for most of its life was simply the Administration Building. This is a relatively sterile building, named for the president who led the UI through its 16 most vigorous and turbulent years. But a third-floor area features the Hall of Presidents, with portraits of each of the university’s leaders. For what it’s worth, the portraits of the earlier leaders are much larger than the recent ones.

South of Henry is the English Building, which originally was known as the Woman’s Building and had a dormitory, swimming pool and gymnasium. It became the English Building in 1956, and may be best known today for its wonderfully creaky wood floors.

South of the English Building is the only building on campus named for a U.S. president, Lincoln Hall. It’s a grand, interesting structure that appears to be just three floors, but there’s a fourth one squeezed in there. There’s also a bust of the president just outside the newly remodeled first-floor theater. The president’s nose is shiny from having been rubbed by thousands of students. A plaque with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address also graces the east entryway.

Near to Lincoln Hall is Foellinger Auditorium, built in 1907. Like Wright Street, it’s mostly closed to traffic. Foellinger is getting a new granite stairway this summer to replace the original.

East of Foellinger is the great Smith Memorial Hall, built in 1917 and paid for by university trustee Thomas J. Smith as a tribute to his wife. On the main floor is a fine performance hall that for 50 years was Krannert Center before there was a Krannert Center.

North of Smith Hall is the Foreign Languages Building, probably the ugliest structure on campus. Some (me) have compared its hulking appearance to the headquarters of the KGB. The less time spent looking at it the better.

Finally, take a stop at the Main Library, which has a number of highlights, including the magnificent second-floor reading room, the university archives, the newspaper library and the first-floor Bronze Tablets, which annually recognize outstanding undergraduate students. Look closely at the tablets, and you’ll see names you may recognize, such as 1965’s Rita Marie Bell, now Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman of Danville, and 1969’s Timothy V. Johnson, a former congressman from Urbana.

There are many other spaces on the central campus worth a visit this summer. You’ve got about 12 weeks to take your tour.

Tom Kacich’s column appears on Sundays. He can be reached at kacich@news-gazette.com.

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May 19, 2019 at 08:20AM

Tom Kacich | It’s a great time to go for a stroll on UI campus

Bill before Gov. J.B. Pritzker would broaden access to state education grants for low-income students

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Transgender students who are disqualified from receiving federal financial aid and those who are in the U.S. without proper documentation would be eligible for state education grants under a bill before Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The legislation, passed by lawmakers earlier this month, would make an additional 3,500 Illinois students eligible for the Monetary Award Program and could create another $9 million in annual demand on a program that has historically been underfunded.

Despite that, the legislation does not provide additional money to the state-funded program for students with a financial need.

“I’m always in support of increasing MAP grants,” said Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez of Cicero, the bill’s sponsor. “We have to work at that, but we can’t dismiss — these are students who have already been accepted into universities. It broadens the pool but it gives an opportunity to all students to pursue their education.”

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May 17, 2019 at 05:57PM

Bill before Gov. J.B. Pritzker would broaden access to state education grants for low-income students

#3405 – DCFS and Higher Education

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Child Welfare Agency Reform and Higher Education Priorities

Governor J.B. Pritzker pledges overhaul of troubled Department of Children and Family Services and Senate leaders chart future for Illinois public higher education.  Guests: Capitolfax.com publisher Rich Miller, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D) Chicago, Rep. Terri Bryant (R) Murphysboro, Sen. Pat McGuire (D) Hill Crest and Sen. Steve McClure (R) Springfield.

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May 17, 2019 at 02:40PM

#3405 – DCFS and Higher Education

Pritzker unveils $41.5 billion capital plan

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After months of pondering, Gov. J.B. Pritzker today began briefing state lawmakers on his much-anticipated capital plan, and it’s both big and expensive—$41.5 billion over six years, to be financed in part by a doubling of the state’s tax on gasoline.

According to background documents obtained by Crain’s, Pritzker wants to pair just under $25 billion in new state spending with $10 billion in expected federal funds with $6.6 billion in local and private funds, saying that work is needed because Illinois infrastructure is in “dire” shape.

Transportation would get the biggest piece of the pie, with $28.6 billion in anticipated projects, including $23 billion for roads and bridges, $3.4 billion for mass transit, $442 million for the Create freight rail decongestion plan and another billion for other railroad and aviation projects.

Education projects, mostly building construction for state universities and local grade and high school districts, are in line for $5.9 billion in work, with $5.9 billion on other state facilities.

Environmental and conservation projects would get $1 billion, with $420 million for broadband expansion into under-served areas, mostly downstate, and $711 million for economic development.

To pay for that, in a move already being criticized by fiscal conservatives, the state’s motor fuel tax would be doubled on July 1 to 36 cents a gallon for both gasoline and diesel fuel, bringing in $560 million additional a year for the state and $90 million for local government.

Another $490 million is projected for increasing vehicle registration fees, with the charge for cars three years or younger almost doubling to $199 a year, but cars of over 12 years seeing only an $8 increase, to $109. Electric vehicles, which don’t use gasoline, also would see a big jump, from $34 a vehicle now to $250. But that’s a fraction of the $1,000-a-year charge that has been envisioned in a plan introduced by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Martin Sandoval, D-Cicero.

While taxes on vehicles would pay most of the plan’s freight, other items would be face new taxes, too, in line with Pritzker’s proposal to offer a “vertical” plan that provides funds for more than transportation projects.

Ergo, the real estate transfer tax would double to $1 per $500 in sales price for non-residential property, ride-hailing trips would be hit with a new levy of $1 a ride, and a 7 percent tax would be levied on cable, satellite and streaming services. Parking garages would face a tax of 6 to 9 percent, and video gaming fees would rise.

Lobbyists for the affected industries already are objecting, and the plan almost certainly will change if it passes at all. But it’s been a decade since the state adopted a capital plan, and there’s a huge thirst for one in Springfield.

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via Crain’s Chicago Business

May 17, 2019 at 03:15PM

Pritzker unveils $41.5 billion capital plan

Universities in Illinois get ratings upgrades from Moody’s – Crain’s Chicago Business

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State universities finally are getting a bit of good news from Wall Street—largely due to the state’s improved fiscal situation.
 
In a series of announcements Monday evening, Moody’s Investors’ Service said it has adjusted upward from negative to neutral its outlook on debt issued by Eastern, Northern, Northeastern and Southern Illinois universities, as well as Governor’s State University and Illinois State University.
 
Eastern, Southern and Illinois State also received even better news, as Moody’s actually raised its ratings on a type of debt known as certificates of participation and, in Eastern’s and Illinois State’s case, some bonds.
 
The actions at a minimum mean none of the schools now is in imminent danger of a downgrade, something that has been the case since ex-Gov. Bruce Rauner and state lawmakers engaged in a two-year budget feud. The actions also suggest that the schools will pay less interest than they might have should they borrow again.
 
Moody’s cited a variety of improved financials, but in every case noted that the schools now are again receiving regular state funding from the budget and thus are closer to financial stability.
 
The new governor, J.B. Pritzker, also wants funding in his proposed fiscal 2020 budget, but the money will not make up for cuts during the Rauner years.

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May 14, 2019 at 09:13AM

Universities in Illinois get ratings upgrades from Moody’s – Crain’s Chicago Business