U of I’s capital plan will focus on facilities


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Although the University of Illinois has invested more than $1.2 billion in classrooms, residence halls and athletic venues since 2013, the school will put a renewed focus on facilities across its three campuses.

University officials say it’s time for a renewed focus on facilities. They say they hope to use the university’s borrowing power to fund key projects — including the Discovery Partners Institute in Chicago

With no state budget for the past decade, the university had to pay for more than half of its building projects through operating funds. The state covered about 7 percent.

The News-Gazette in Champaign reports university trustee Donald Edwards says that lack of state funding, coupled with an estimated $2 billion maintenance backlog, demands a long-term approach to addressing concerns about the school’s facilities.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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January 21, 2018 at 01:09PM

U of I’s capital plan will focus on facilities

Study Shows Students Leaving the State


Nearly every other high school graduate in Illinois who went to a four-year university chose to do so outside the state in 2016.

A new report from the Illinois Board of Higher Education says that the number of Illinois residents enrolled in a local college is continually dropping and the number of students going to school in other states has been growing for more than a decade. In 2016, almost half of the local high school graduates that planned to attend a four-year school did so out of state. The report shows that they’re primarily just crossing the borders to neighboring state schools.

Board chairman Al Bowman said the decade-long trend is troubling. He thinks recent dips in enrollment are due to other universities out-recruiting Illinois’ schools on their home turf.

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“The schools will collectively have to do a better job of marketing their products,” Bowman said.

Education analyst Preston Cooper with the American Enterprise Institute said the cost of administration often drives up in-state tuition, lessening the value of the local discount.

“It’s definitely an area where schools might be able to cut back if they’re looking to rein in expenditures rather than raise tuition,” he said.

Bowman said a recent IBHE study showed students often pay more in out-of-state tuition and fees than if they had attended a local university.

The University of Illinois is the third most expensive school in the Big 10 conference behind private Northwestern and Penn State. The cheapest is the University of Iowa.

The top out-of-state school for Illinoisans in 2016: the University of Iowa.

Some schools are getting the hint. The University of Illinois confirmed Thursday morning that it would once again keep its tuition rates at the same level as the previous year’s levels. Illinois State University froze its tuition rates last year. Both have seen enrollment increases in recent years, Bowman says.

Illinois’ budget impasse definitely didn’t help attendance at Illinois’ public universities, Bowman said, but the trends extend far beyond 2015, when the impasse began.

The college graduate brain drain is troubling for politicians and school officials alike. College students are statistically more likely to set roots where they went to school, rather than move back home once they graduate. On a mass scale, this exasperates Illinois’ ongoing exodus of population that is now in its fifth consecutive year of lower headcounts.

Also, fewer students inevitably means less revenue for the universities that have become increasingly reliant on tuition for operating expenses. The combination of fewer new freshmen and increasing operation costs creates a vicious cycle of financial trouble for the institutions.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio / www.AltonDailyNews.com)

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January 21, 2018 at 12:08AM

Study Shows Students Leaving the State

District 214, EIU partnership allows adults to get degrees in Arlington Heights


Suburban residents will be able to complete bachelor’s degrees in Arlington Heights as part of a new partnership between Eastern Illinois University and Northwest Suburban High School District 214.

Adult learners enrolled in EIU’s General Studies program can soon take evening and weekend classes at the Forest View Educational Center, 2121 S. Goebbert Road, as well as online, under the arrangement with District 214’s Community Education program.

District 214 and EIU officials held a ribbon-cutting event Friday at EIU’s new office at Forest View. An open house for the university’s General Studies program is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22, for prospective students.

The program accepts up to 100 semester hours from regionally accredited universities, including 78 hours from community colleges.

The two institutions have also formed a partnership that will allow District 214 students to earn early college credit from EIU while still in high school. The dual-credit courses, in subjects including college algebra, speech and English composition, will be offered at all District 214 high schools at a reduced rate, officials said.

The district offers some 60 dual-credit courses in partnership with colleges including Arizona State University, Harper College, National Louis University and Northeastern Illinois University. During the 2016-17 school year, students were enrolled in more than 3,000 dual-credit courses.

“We are excited to offer another avenue for students and adults that expands opportunities for success in college and careers,” Superintendent David Schuler said in a news release.

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January 20, 2018 at 07:03PM

District 214, EIU partnership allows adults to get degrees in Arlington Heights

ISU, Heartland say nursing pact helps students, community


NORMAL — An agreement signed Thursday between Heartland Community College and Illinois State University will help students, hospitals and the community at large, those involved say.

The dual-enrollment agreement allows Heartland nursing students to start work on their bachelor’s degrees before graduating from Heartland.

The two schools already had an agreement that provided a smooth transition into ISU’s RN-to-BSN program for registered nurses with an associate’s degree who want to earn a bachelor of science in nursing. But this lets students get a head start on the process.

Among those planning to participate is Ben Tucker of Bloomington, who is in his second semester as a nursing student at Heartland.

Starting this fall, he will be taking his regular classes at Heartland and starting ISU classes online.

Tucker, an Air Force veteran who eventually wants to become a nurse practitioner, said this program will help him achieve his goal.

Tucker said he chose nursing for a career because “I like the variety of the scope of practice” and “it will allow me to help others.”

Heartland President Rob Widmer said the agreement provides a “cost-effective, high-quality opportunity for nursing students in our community.”

While taking ISU classes as a Heartland student, Tucker and others in the dual-enrollment program will pay Heartland’s much lower tuition rates.

“We all have one thing in common as educators, that is the success of our students,” said Widmer.

Representatives of Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal and OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington attended the signing ceremony in Heartland’s nursing lab.

Toni Bishop-McWain, director of cardiovascular services at OSF, said, “This collaboration is exciting to me because we can reach that goal.”

Bishop-McWain said, “There’s always a constant need” for nurses at the hospital.

Laurie Round, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient services at BroMenn, noted the importance of nurses with bachelor’s degrees “to manage the increasing complexity of both patients and the health care system.”

She said, “The dual-enrollment partnership brings together two great nursing programs to provide our students an expedient and affordable route to a baccalaureate degree.”

Nursing is not the only area where the two schools collaborate.

ISU and Heartland recently signed an agreement enabling students in Heartland’s honors program to transfer into ISU’s honors program. Heartland has a similar agreement with Western Illinois University.

“We’re always looking to see where we can impact students and make it easier for them to succeed,” said Widmer.

Faculty members from both schools communicate about curriculum issues so classes taken at Heartland match what’s needed at ISU, he said. Widmer and Dietz also meet regularly to discuss common concerns.

In nearly all recent years, Heartland has been the leading source of transfer students to ISU, according to ISU spokeswoman Rachel Hatch.

Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota

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January 19, 2018 at 05:08AM

ISU, Heartland say nursing pact helps students, community

Illinois treasurer cites private tuition restriction on college savings plans


SPRINGFIELD — Illinois families with Bright Start or Bright Directions college savings plans will not get a break on their state taxes if they use those accounts to pay for private K-12 tuition, Treasurer Mike Frerichs said Thursday.

And if they try to claim that deduction, they could potentially face a tax penalty from the state, he further warned.

The new federal tax law includes a provision allowing families with so-called 529 college savings plans, originally only for higher education expenses like tuition, fees and books, to use those tax-deductible funds for private K-12 tuition starting this year.

“Our analysis concludes that families who use Bright Start or Bright Directions money on elementary or high school expenses and then cite those expenditures when seeking tax relief will be in conflict with state law and could incur tax penalties if audited by state authorities,” Frerichs said.

The Illinois Department of Revenue concurred with the treasurer’s analysis, saying “the Illinois plans only allow expenditures on post-secondary education without penalty,” and that “In order to expand the definition of qualified expenditures, section 16.5 of the State Treasurer Act would need to be amended.”

The idea behind Illinois’ 529 savings programs, Bright State and Bright Directions, is to incentivize state taxpayers to save money for themselves or loved ones to attend college. The plans have been popular as they are not subject to federal income taxes and contributions are tax-deductible up to $10,000 for an individual or $20,000 for a married couple on state income taxes. And when it comes time for college, withdrawals from these accounts are exempt from state and federal taxes.

According to Frerichs, more than 450,000 accounts are open in Illinois, with about $9 billion invested in them.

“The whole idea on the state tax deduction was to incentivize saving for college,” Frerichs said. “It was not to incentivize private education.”

Though Illinois residents with plans will be able to use them for private K-12 tuition, they will have to pay the regular 4.95 state income tax rate on that cash. But, many, namely the wealthy, still stand to benefit from escaping federal taxes.

“Anytime you put a benefit in the code, the wealthy most likely will use it more aggressively unless the benefit is phased out at higher income levels — as is the case with many benefits put in the tax law,” said DePaul University professor Ron Marcuson, a tax expert. “I have not analyzed all aspects of Section 529 plans but it does not appear the benefit is phased out as the taxpayer’s income increases.”

However, Frerichs is worried that the confusion caused by conflicting state and federal policies will lead policyholders to write off that expense as a state tax deduction.

The Democratic treasurer said such a write-off, in addition to violating Illinois tax code, is in conflict with the spirit of the program, to save money long-term for college. Instead, Frerichs said the new federal provision opens up opportunities he likened to money laundering.

“Now you could see someone who’s already sending their kid to private school, has a $10,000 tuition bill; instead of giving $10,000 directly to the school, they can put it into a 529 account and then next day, write a check from their 529 account to a school,” Frerichs said. “They’ve not actually saved any money and they didn’t invest in it, they didn’t earn any interest off it. It’s just basically money laundering, it’s a pass-through for tax avoidance.”

If this were to occur, Frerichs said it would could have a negative impact on tax revenue for the state.

“There’s uncertainty of what’s going to happen if they write a check,” Frerichs said. “We want them to know that there are potential penalties out there for doing this, but our hope also is that the General Assembly and the governor will provide some clarity on what they would like.”




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January 18, 2018 at 07:09PM

Illinois treasurer cites private tuition restriction on college savings plans

Some ICC instructors get a chance to continue teaching or retire


EAST PEORIA — Five of the 10 full-time Illinois Central College faculty members who recently learned they were no longer qualified to teach at the community college now have new options.

The ICC board of trustees voted unanimously Thursday to offer eligible former faculty members a voluntary early retirement package or the possibility of a paid sabbatical to take the courses necessary for certification to teach. Tuition costs would be reimbursed at the end of the one-semester sabbatical.

Four of the five are eligible for the retirement incentive, which equals one-third of their base salary. But all five could choose the paid sabbatical, though it would have to approved first by ICC President Sheila Quirk-Bailey.

“These are quality faculty, we don’t want to lose them,” Emmanuel Awuah, vice president of academic affairs, told board members as he explained the sabbatical offer.

The other five faculty members affected by new teacher-qualification guidelines will continue to teach in areas where they are certified.

Though it did not come up at the board meeting, more than 25 percent of the community college’s part-time faculty were also affected by changes in the college’s accreditation requirements.

Quirk-Bailey said the college is providing low-cost courses on campus, which would make it easier for many of the part-time teachers to gain certification.

Dozens of teachers were notified over Thanksgiving break that they would no longer be eligible to teach courses that transfer to four-year colleges. Some of the teachers had taught at ICC for more than a decade.

In June 2015, the Higher Learning Commission, the accrediting agency for about 1,000 institutions in 19 states, issued revised guidelines on faculty qualifications. The guidelines require teachers to have a master’s degree or graduate-level credits in the courses they teach.

Of the colleges 491 part-time faculty members, 91 were told they were no longer eligible to teach. The new guidelines affected 10 of 167 full-time faculty members.

HLC is scheduled to visit the campus in 2020. Administrators said they want to see faculty get the credentials they need by 2019.

Pam Adams can be reached at 686-3245 or padams@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @padamspam.



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January 18, 2018 at 07:31PM

Some ICC instructors get a chance to continue teaching or retire

LLC president: Community college an affordable alternative


Over the past decade a crisis has been brewing that has the potential to profoundly impact the very foundation of higher education. The crisis surrounds the precipitous rise of student loan debt. Over the past decade student loan debt in the United States has grown by 150 percent, topping out at $1.4 trillion. As Forbes magazine notes, “student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt – and higher than both credit cards and auto loans.”

More than 44 million U.S. residents, roughly 14 percent of the population, are saddled with student loan debt. The data demonstrates that student loan debt is forcing many individuals to delay major life events, like purchasing a home, getting married or having children.

Fortunately, college students in our area have the opportunity to create a future with a much brighter forecast. By choosing Lake Land College to start, or earn, their college degree their future life plans can include vacations, new cars, a walk down the aisle and mortgage payments. Lake Land College’s tuition and fees for two years are about $7,800, including textbooks. In contrast, the average cost for tuition and fees for the first two years of a bachelor’s degree from a public university is about $28,000. Add on the cost of housing, estimated at $20,000, and the purchasing of textbooks, estimated at $2,600 and the tab for those two years quickly escalates.

In essence, it’s a comparison of $50,000 to $8,000 for the first two years of a bachelor’s degree. That’s an enormous difference when thinking about the potential debt facing a college graduate. The gap grows wider when compared to private colleges or technical schools.

As an institution, we are committed to creating an environment where a student can earn a college education and enter the workforce with minimal debt. Two ways that we assist students are through Lake Land College Foundation scholarships and the Presidential Scholarship. All high school students have the opportunity to qualify for the Presidential Scholarship by graduating in the top 15 percent of their class or earning a 1240 on the SAT or 26 on the ACT. Each year, the Lake Land College Foundation awards nearly $400,000 in scholarships to deserving students. I encourage all who will be attending Lake Land this fall to complete the application by February 1 at 5 p.m. online at lakelandcollege.edu/scholarships/.

While we often hear requests from legislators and commitments from university presidents to minimize the cost of higher education, community colleges in Illinois have been living up to that commitment for more than 50 years. And, students are taking note. In Illinois, two-thirds of the undergraduate students enrolled in public higher education are attending community colleges. In our own Lake Land College district, community college is the top choice among high school graduates with more than 50 percent of the college-bound class of 2017 starting the fall semester as Lakers.

The higher education landscape continues to evolve with emerging technologies and heightened demands for workforce training. Community colleges are agents of change that readily adapt to the evolving needs of the communities we serve, yet one area we will hold steadfast is in our pledge to maintain opportunities for a quality, affordable college education.

Josh Bullock is the president of Lake Land College

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January 18, 2018 at 02:53PM

LLC president: Community college an affordable alternative