Trustees discuss revised online course system

By Beth Gilomen and Drake Baer

CHICAGO — The University’s Board of Trustees met Thursday to discuss the recently revised plan for the Global Campus Partnership.

The program would create a primarily online academic unit of the University system.

University President B. Joseph White said the mission of the Global Campus is to provide access to high quality education for non-traditional and continuing students.

“The nation is ready for a paradigm change in the options for higher education,” White said.

Thus far, the trustees have focused on the financial ramifications of the proposed plan.

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    Potentially, the Global Campus could serve 9,300 students in 31 academic programs by fiscal year 2012.

    Chet Gardner, special assistant to White, said in order to do so the University would need to make an investment of $14 million through a line of credit.

    Board Chairman Larry Eppley asked if this money could be better allocated in traditional access funding, as in the number of residential students who could be served via programs like financial aid, versus the number of students who would be served by the Global Campus. White and Gardner did not yet have specific information available to answer his question.

    White responded to questions of the distribution of financial gain from the endeavor by saying that if the current payout structure is followed, the majority of the revenue will go to faculty benefit and retention.

    Trustee Robert Sperling said he was concerned about the possibilities of the project because not enough information has been given about the concrete operational structure of the program.

    “We’ve got a mystery to look into here,” Sperling said. “And we have tax payer’s money at stake.”

    Professor Vernon Burton attended a Jan. 8 meeting with University administration that helped formulate changes to the Global Campus plan.

    “(Residential learning) is a unique American experience,” he said. “That is amazing the way it has shaped leaders.” He added that the University would be doing a disservice to its students if it does not seize online learning.

    Also, the board approved a budget for the renovation of Lincoln Hall.

    Deferred maintenance has been an issue of great concern at board meetings in the last year. In April 2006, the board approved the 5/500 plan, which implemented a $250 per semester fee to address deferred maintenance. Lincoln Hall improvements have been a focal point of that process since the beginning of the discussion.

    “We really need to do this,” White said of the planned renovations. “No fooling.”

    Burton said as the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency nears, “there would be no better way to celebrate our 16th president (than to renovate Lincoln Hall).”

    The cost of the project is estimated at $66.4 million.

    The board is hoping the bulk of the funding, $53 million, will come from state appropriations. However, the governor has not signed off on a capital funding bill since fiscal year 2003.

    Chancellor Richard Herman said he was optimistic about the chances of receiving project funding from the state.

    “We hope to get it all,” Herman said. “We’ve already gathered $5 million, but we may need to make our own funds.”

    Trustees also supported the University of Illinois at Chicago joining the city of Chicago in its 2016 Olympic bid. The agreement allows the university to hold boxing events for the prospective host city, and presents an interest in constructing a new facility to host aquatic events.