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A conversation with the next chairman of the Board of Trustees

Photo+Courtesy+of+Dedra+Williams
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A conversation with the next chairman of the Board of Trustees

Photo Courtesy of Dedra Williams

Photo Courtesy of Dedra Williams

Photo Courtesy of Dedra Williams

Photo Courtesy of Dedra Williams

By Megan Jones, Staff Writer

Trustee Tim Koritz was recently elected to serve as the next chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees. The Daily Illini spoke with Koritz about some of his goals and stances.

Koritz works for the Rockford Memorial Hospital as a staff anesthesiologist. He previously served as the chair of the board’s healthcare committee. He graduated with a Bronze Tablet from the University in 1978.

Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Why did you personally want to become the chair?

The chair is a little more involved than being a trustee as far as everyday issues going on at the University.

Our former chair Ed McMillan had concerns about being too busy and wanting someone else to take over, and I was happy to volunteer to ease his workload.

I previously served as the chair of the healthcare committee. I am the only physician on the board.

A lot of people do not realize this, but if you look at the entire University, something like 25 to 30 percent of the entire budget is wrapped up in healthcare, whether it is the medical school, dental school, pharmacy, nursing schools, etc.

I guess it was logical that since I am the only physician on the board that I would be in charge of that committee.

I will stay as chair at least during the time being. We are still waiting to hear who our new three appointed trustees will be (trustees are appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner).

I think eventually, for the good of the University, we are going to have to find a new chair, so we can transition over the period of a year or so.

My term expires in two years. If I’m not reappointed, it wouldn’t be good to have someone start from scratch as chair without any prior assistance, if and when that occurs.

What is the biggest challenge the UI system faces?

Without question, it is the funding issue and the state budget issue. For the last two years, we have not had any certainty in how much support we’d get from the state, and that just makes it so difficult to make any kind of plans.

You always learn if and when you are going to get paid and think of what to do with that money.

We proposed to a joint committee of the state legislature a five-year funding model that would provide information on what we are doing to give the state a return on their investment.

Such stability would really help. Put yourself in the shoes of an employee, such as a professor or someone who helps with the physical upkeep of a plant.

If they don’t know if their salary or benefits will remain stable, that is a difficult position to be in. We worry some of our star faculty will get pulled away by other institutions.

What are your thoughts on affordability and accessibility for students at UI?

Regarding affordability, there is a big concern with the cost of tuition. If you look at people who come from impoverished backgrounds, all their expenses are covered.

If you look at the other end of the spectrum, the students from affluent backgrounds, usually their family, can afford to get them through school without being in significant debt.

But it is the families in the middle whose parents do not make enough. But because of their income status, students do not qualify for significant loans or grants on their FAFSA application. They are stuck in the middle, racking up significant debt.

In the early 2000s there were significant tuition increases. I came on the board in 2009, and I am proud that I was the first trustee to say we need to bring a screeching halt to these increases.

Over the past three years, we have not had any tuition increases, which is the right way to go. We need to keep doing that to become competitive.

Another problem with the cost of our education is that it is cheaper for some kids to go out of state. Statistically, when a student goes out of state, two-thirds of them stay in the state they were educated in.

They never come back to Illinois to help with our economy, and it creates a brain-drain of our best students in Illinois.

In terms of accessibility, we plan to increase enrollment.

You have a daughter who attends the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. What are some of the considerations you make as a trustee with your daughter in mind?

Yes, Elizabeth is a freshman in the College of Business honor’s program. The whole time I’ve been on the board, I’ve had students at Urbana, including Elizabeth’s three oldest sisters. I’ve always said the best thing about living in Illinois is that your kids can go to the University of Illinois for college.

I think they received a great education, and I’m glad they were there. The fact that they were there does not change the way I vote on issues.

Our number one priority for the board is to educate students, and obviously that includes maintaining faculty because it makes your education better.

It enhances my experience knowing that, when I come down to a board meeting, I can meet up with my kids.

It also gives me a unique perspective as a board member because I believe right now I am the only board member who has a child that is a student at the University. I bring the perspective of a consumer to the board as well. 

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