Gov. Bruce Rauner long has argued that one of the state’s best economic bets would be to somehow bridge…

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Gov. Bruce Rauner long has argued that one of the state’s best economic bets would be to somehow bridge the 140-mile gap that separates two of its strongest assets: the University of Illinois main campus in Urbana-Champaign and the city of Chicago. He thinks he’s got it figured out.

Joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen, Rauner plans to announce tomorrow morning a project called the Discovery Partners Institute, which would be built on a 62-acre site along the Chicago River south of Roosevelt Road that is being developed by Related Midwest. Related calls the site “78” in reference to hopes of becoming the city’s 78th neighborhood. The property also has been floated as a possible site for Amazon’s second headquarters, which the city and state jointly are pursuing.

The governor’s office confirmed that it will make an announcement tomorrow related to a “public-private partnership” but declined to elaborate.

The institute would be funded initially by as much as $200 million in private donors lined up by the governor, according to people who’ve heard the pitch. Exactly what programs will be represented is unclear, but it likely would involve both the university’s flagship campus and the University of Illinois at Chicago and both research and instruction activities. In broad strokes, the idea is to get academics and companies to collaborate on “pushing the art of the possible,” said one executive who was pitched on the idea by Rauner. It’s part of a broader innovation corridor envisioned by the governor that has multiple “nodes.”

With the clock running out on Rauner’s first term, the announcement would allow him to show some momentum on the economic-development front (along with hopes of landing Amazon and a Toyota-Mazda assembly plant, which the state also is pursuing). The question will be whether he can deliver.

Before he ran for governor four years ago, Rauner, a longtime private-equity investor, was pitching the idea of linking Chicago’s capital with talent at U of I, which has one of the world’s top engineering and computer-science schools in Urbana. The goal was to give Chicago and the state some of the startup spark that Silicon Valley and Boston have gotten from their nearby universities, Stanford, Harvard and MIT.

In 2011, Rauner sketched out the idea. It required a “commitment of U of I to expand its computer science/engineering program to Chicago in a major way, opening a significant IT campus in the (Illinois Medical District) or elsewhere near downtown, moving faculty and students here on a large scale—with that plan in place, investment $ and additional technology will readily flow,” he wrote in an email to Larry Schook, former vice president for research for the U of I’s three campuses, according to emails to Emanuel’s private email address that were released late last year.

That was Rauner’s vision for UI Labs, which ultimately morphed into a manufacturing-technology center on Goose Island that involved multiple universities in order to land a big federal grant. But Rauner never gave up on the idea of creating more of a presence in Chicago for U of I’s Urbana faculty and students to launch more tech companies and create jobs and wealth.

He hinted at it again in his state of the state address Jan. 25, saying: “Illinois is home to some of the greatest research universities in the world. Working in partnership, we can create a technology and innovation center here in the Midwest that can rival Silicon Valley or North Carolina’s Research Triangle, creating tens of thousands of high-paying jobs.”

There already have been some efforts to bridge the gap. Three years ago, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business began collaborating with U of I’s College of Engineering to encourage students from the two campuses to collaborate on projects and potential startups. U of I’s College of Engineering recently announced a program called City Scholars that would bring 50 students to Chicago next spring for paid internships.

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Gov. Bruce Rauner long has argued that one of the state’s best economic bets would be to somehow bridge…

Opinion | Voice of The Southern: A clearer picture for SIUC

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We’ve all had the experience.

We’re standing on the shore of a lake or river and a boat passes by in the distance. It takes a while for the wake to reach the shore, but the effects of the disturbance inevitably appear. And, the waves continue lapping at the shore long after the boat has passed.

The State of Illinois went without a budget for two years. While the state did its best to minimize the effects, it was just a matter of time before citizens and institutions felt the wash. There were ripples throughout the past two years, cuts in services and some reduction in staff, but the first waves hit the beach this week.

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees meeting this week created some waves of its own, announcing cuts and consolidations in programs.

A case could be made that in light of the ongoing budget crisis, the cuts were overdue. Conversely, waiting until the state passed a budget put the university’s predicament into sharper focus, allowing a more surgical approach to cutbacks.

The Board of Trustees suggested the elimination of seven degree programs — bachelor’s degrees in mining engineering, business economics, physical education teacher education and Africana studies. Master’s programs in mining engineering and political science were also tagged for elimination as well as the doctorate program in historical studies.

First, it’s a shame that any academic programs have to be scuttled. College students are best served when the school of their choice provides the greatest diversity in programs and enrollment. If these programs are ultimately dropped, it will diminish the university.

On the other hand, there is the economic reality of 2017 and two years without a state budget.

The programs slated for elimination have historically not attracted a lot of students. In robust economic times, these programs could be considered a luxury. Given the reality of today — SIU will be receiving $91.4 million in state appropriations for FY 2018, down 10 percent from $101.6 million in FY 2015, the last year the state had a budget.

Clearly, reality dictates minimal luxuries.

Several other cost cutting moves were also announced. SIU will combine several programs into a new College of Media, Design and Fine and Performing Arts. Other areas of study will be rolled into the colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Engineering.

The consolidation will make the university a bit leaner and result in administrative savings. As SIU Carbondale’s enrollment continues to drop, changes along these lines were just a matter of time. The financial crunch pushed them to the front burner.

Finally, plans to raze University Towers and begin construction of new student housing were put on hold. The plans for new student housing have been on the books for several years. Eventually, as the towers age, the plan will have to be implemented. But that is the cost of, in this instance, the state not doing business.

The cuts outlined by the Board of Trustees aren’t draconian. To those of us outside the board room, they seem reasonable, although not particularly appealing.

“No one cheers a 10 percent cut, but … we know where we are,” said SIU president Randy Dunn. “It unfreezes things. It’s something we can work with. It’s sustainable. It’s predictable. We can do planning and implementation from that and we’re appreciative of having it.”

As noted earlier, this is the first wave.

The deteriorating financial condition of the state has changed variables for students selecting a university. More cuts are likely to occur before the state turns around. But, as Dunn said, the university now has a clearer picture of at least the immediate future.

Opinion | Voice of The Southern: A clearer picture for SIUC

‘Forbes’ Says Elmhurst College is One of Illinois’ Best Values

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In this year’s Forbes magazine rankings of the country’s best values in higher education, Elmhurst College placed ninth among the top 10 schools in Illinois, and in the top 13 percent of colleges and universities nationally.
The Forbes rankings, called “America’s Best Value Colleges 2017: 300 Schools Worth The Investment,” acknowledge that for many students and their families, the cost of attending a particular four-year college or university is as much of a deciding factor as the quality. The rankings highlight where prospective college students can get “the most quality for each tuition dollar spent,” and whether a particular college will deliver a meaningful return on investment.
Forbes’ 2017 Best Value College ranking selected 300 schools nationally-out of the approximately 2,360 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S.-that deliver the best bang for the tuition buck. To develop the list, Forbes used data collected from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard as well as PayScale, the world’s largest salary database. The rankings formula was based primarily on school quality, alumni mid-career earnings, student debt levels and on-time graduation success, as well as dropout risk rates and enrollment figures for Pell Grant recipients.
Only 11 colleges and universities from Illinois made the list. Aside from Elmhurst, the list included the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois (the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses), Loyola University, Illinois Wesleyan University, DePaul University, Bradley University, Wheaton College and Illinois State University.
Elmhurst College is a leading four-year college that seamlessly blends liberal learning and professional preparation to help students reach their full potential. Elmhurst offers more than 60 undergraduate majors, 17 graduate programs, degree-completion programs for adults and the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy for young adults with developmental disabilities. Elmhurst College is one of the Top 10 Colleges in the Midwest, according to U.S. News & World Report; and U.S. News, Money and Forbes magazines consistently rank Elmhurst as one of the Midwest’s best values in higher education.

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‘Forbes’ Says Elmhurst College is One of Illinois’ Best Values

‘We’re OK,’ says EIU president

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last of six stories in the JG-TC’s “State of the University” series focusing on Eastern Illinois University’s recent years of declining enrollment, and financial challenges related to the Illinois state budget impasse. This installment looks at elements that will help shape the university’s future.

CHARLESTON — The state budget impasse has been an unintended “distraction” for Eastern Illinois University, according to the university president, but plans moving forward are intended to keep the institution in a good place.

These plans do not include budget cuts, David Glassman said.

“Because of the things that we did last year with layoffs and furloughing and so on, we positioned ourselves to be in an efficient budgetary position right now,” Glassman said. “We’re OK.”

Right now, the university has 1,224 employees, including 737 staff and 487 faculty. When the layoff process started, the university had 1,743 employees.

“We anticipate that there will be another stop gap or budget at some time,” Glassman said.

The university has not received money since the last stop-gap funding measure that ended at the end of the year. If history is any indication of when Eastern might receive the funds, Glassman noted it likely would not be until the end of May. That time last year the university received the first of many stop-gap funding measures.

More recently, a house bill allocating more than $800 million in stop-gap funding passed through the Illinois House of Representatives without approval from Gov. Bruce Rauner. The bill now sits in the Illinois Senate.

While he liked the bill, state Rep. Reggie Phillips, R-Charleston, did not vote “yes” on it. He said he saw the bill as “dead on arrival.”

“It is not going anywhere,” Phillips said. “Say it passes at the end of May out of the Senate. Then, the governor has 60 days to sit on it. It’s dead… At the end of 60 days, he can veto it, which he will.”

Phillips is hedging his bets on the chance for a full budget with full funding to universities in the near future. Phillips said by the time the legislature is back in session, there should be a “grand bargain” budget proposal plan created by Senate leaders.

Phillips said he was hopeful for the chance to finally see the budget jam break before now, however, he thinks there is still a good chance it might fail.

“If terms limits are a part of that budget, it is going nowhere,” Phillips said. “(House Speaker Michael Madigan) has made it perfectly clear. He wants a budget based on the way it has been done in the past without any turnaround agenda on it. The question is: Will the governor’s and Madigan’s offices be able to work with each other to save face?

“If we don’t get it done by May 31st, then this is the way we are going to be until 2018,” Phillips continued.

Beyond calling for funding, Glassman said Eastern and other state university officials have been working on pushing for predictable and stable funding. Glassman said the universities need to know from year to year how much money they are getting from the state.

The lack of predictability has made planning financially a significant challenge, Glassman said.

Despite what happens at the state level, Glassman said Eastern will be focusing on bringing people to campus through further strategic investments in marketing.

Stacia Lynch, EIU marketing director, said the university has been enhancing its advertising and exposure.

“We’ve worked diligently to increase our exposure locally and in the Chicago suburbs,” Lynch said. “These efforts have primarily centered around recruiting events such as Admitted Student Day events in Chicago and on-campus and open houses. In Chicago, our ads appeared in the Chicago Tribune suburban network newspapers, online, on-air with WGN radio, and online with Comcast.”

The same is being done locally, targeting prospective regional students.

The university is also continuing a campaign in theaters as well, where an ad for Eastern will run prior to movies in a number of local and suburban Chicago venues.

“The end goal for all of our efforts is to get prospective students to visit campus. We know that one of our most powerful recruiting tools is the campus visit,” Lynch said.

The university has also sought guidance from a national advertising agency, Thorburn Group, which is tasked with helping Eastern best communicate the stories of those at the university.

Lynch said these moves will help get students to campus, however, it will not necessarily directly boost enrollment.

“I don’t believe there is any statistic that can directly correlate admissions with advertising, though I believe people may think that’s the case,” she said. “In reality, it is the sum total of all of a prospects’ experiences that get them to commit to EIU. We may pique their interest, educate them about Eastern, and motivate them to visit, but without a solidly positive campus experience, none of that would matter.”

Currently, the university is also running through the list of recommendations provided by the Vitalization Project, which was started late last year with groups tasked with identifying efficiencies and possibilities to make the university more marketable.

The recommendations are listed on the Vitalization Project website. Most recently, university officials have placed updated lists of changes made as a result of the project so far on the site with the recommendations.

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‘We’re OK,’ says EIU president

Impact of Budget Stalemate on Illinois Higher Education

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From Macomb: We talk one-on-on with Dr Jack Thomas, President of Western Illinois University. Dr Thomas has served as President of WIU for six years, and shares with us the economic impact of there being no state budget for the last two years, and how that’s hit both the university and the economy of the Western Illinois region.

Impact of Budget Stalemate on Illinois Higher Education

CAA to discuss program recommendations

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Discussion of the draft document to President Glassman concerning recommendations for programs considered for elimination or reorganization.

The Council on Academic affairs will discuss its draft document of recommendations for programs being considered for elimination or reorganization.

It is scheduled to meet 2 p.m. Tuesday in room 4440 of the Booth Library.

The council heard about the programs at its last meeting and conducted its own review of them.

According to the draft letter to Eastern President David Glassman attached to the agenda, the CAA recommends program retention for philosophy, program reorganization for philosophy and a program hiatus for adult and community education.

The focus of the council’s review centered on the centrality of the program to the university’s mission, the impact elimination would have on students in other majors, minors and concentrations and the overall quality of the program.

In their rationale for the philosophy program, the CAA wrote that the program provides opportunities for students to learn “the methods and results of free and rigorous inquiry in the humanities and to refine their abilities to become responsible citizens and leaders.”

“The philosophy program impacts several other interdisciplinary minors and programs, including numerous general education courses provided to the university,” the rationale reads. “The quality of the program is characterized by the offering of comprehensive coverage of both analytic and continental philosophy within all areas and historical periods in the discipline, which is rarely found in other programs.”

For the Africana studies department, they wrote that the centrality to the university’s mission is clear regarding Eastern’s commitment to diversity, but the program has “limited impact” on other students outside of the major.

“It is agreed that if the program was to be reorganized such that more interdisciplinary opportunities exist, it would have a greater overall impact on students and other programs,” the rationale said.

In regards to adult and community education, the CAA wrote that it is an innovative program and if resources become available, it could be revived.

“Although the program has minimal impact on other majors, minors or concentrations, it provides students in education a unique opportunity to become professionally prepared to have a positive impact on communities,” it said in the rationale.

Also on the agenda is a vote on renaming computer science and mathematics and a bachelor’s program in digital media summary.

The News staff can be reached at 581-2812 or dennewsdesk@gmail.com.

CAA to discuss program recommendations