The university is also asking for a special bank account to pay professors to stay and is willing to guarantee only a third of the slots at the main campus to Illinois students.
Mike Zalewski, D-Chicago, acknowledges it could be tough to get lawmakers on board with an expensive, special deal for the university while the rest of state government teeters on the edge.
“Sometimes among the ashes is when you do the best building,” Zalewski said. “I think the U of I is taking the right approach, ‘Let’s rebuild our relationship with the state,’ I think a lot of people need to do that.”
Zalewski said he’s selling the idea to lawmakers not as a $660 million expense, but as an investment in the national reputation of the state’s biggest school.
“The U of I is beacon right now among a state that has some very strong perception problems,” Zalewski added. “We have to make the U of I a place where professors want to teach, where students want to come to school.”
But many lawmakers have said in the past the university’s reputation in Illinois is that it’s too expensive and not welcoming to Illinois students.
Lawmakers will take up the plan in the spring.