UI system requests funding increase

By Avirup Kundu, Staff Writer

On Nov. 15, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees approved a request for an increase in state funding next year to continue building on educational and affordability initiatives that have helped push enrollment across the three-university system to all-time highs.

The request seeks $692.5 million in operating funds for fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1, up 16.5 percent from the system’s state general funds appropriation for fiscal year 2019.

When asked if the new funding would help reduce tuition costs, Tom Hardy, executive director for media relations, said part of the new funding would go toward financial aid for students, which would help maintain the tuition freeze.

“Funding would boost University-provided financial aid and support salary improvements to recruit and retain top faculty. The request also would replenish funding lost during the state’s two-year budget impasse, which netted appropriations that were less than 30 percent of traditional levels for the fiscal year 2016,” a press release from the University said.

Hardy said the request is submitted to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, which then makes a recommendation to the governor. The governor then works with the legislature to decide the amount of funding that is to be received by every institution in the state.

“We will use the additional money ($97.9 million) to support a salary program for our faculty and staff, to increase financial aid for Illinois undergraduates and to hire more faculty. We have increased enrollments over the last few years, but because of the budget challenges, we have not kept up with faculty hiring to serve our students,” said Barbara Wilson, executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs of the University of Illinois system, in an email.

The resulting increase in student-to-faculty ratios can affect class sizes, the availability of courses and the capacity for faculty to work more individually with students, she said.

Additionally, the University is requesting $722 million for a number of infrastructure projects.

At the Urbana-Champaign campus, this would include the renovation of Altgeld Hall and it would also support a new data science initiative. The funding would also support a new addition to the School of Art and Design to enrich design thinking and learning, Wilson said.

“State capital funding would fortify a new U of I system 10-year plan announced this fall that will seek to invest $4 billion over 10 years to build and upgrade facilities across the system to ensure they match the excellence of academic and research programs,” said the press release from the University.

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