Easter supports Urbana College of Medicine

By Abigale Svoboda

President Robert Easter said he was as skeptical as anyone when discussions began on a potential Urbana College of Medicine.

But after reviewing the report and others from the Academic Senate and the University Senates Conference, he said he was assured the proposal would be beneficial for the University of Illinois.

Easter recommended the Board of Trustees vote in approval of the proposal at the Academic and Student Affairs committee meeting on Monday.

He said he grappled with the decision for over a year, making a final determination based on the proposal’s economic feasibility and how it would affect the University of Illinois’ land grant mission, as well as its research and educational mission. 

It was clear that the college would advance the University’s missions, Easter said, but its economic feasibility was not as apparent. 

Eventually, Easter said he determined the proposal would be successful without hindering other University programs, including the existing College of Medicine on the Chicago campus.

If the Board of Trustees approves the college at its meeting Thursday, the proposal will be presented to the Illinois Board of Higher Education for approval. 

If approved, the University will enter a binding contract with the Carle Foundation for its $100 million contribution to the college over the next decade. Additionally, the University has a plan to obtain $135 million in donations over the next 10 years. 

Trustee James Montgomery expressed concern that other programs may suffer while donors contribute to the College of Medicine. However, Chancellor Phyllis Wise said an unnamed alumni who had not previously donated to the University has promised $10 million. 

Easter echoed it is important to pay attention to donors’ passions and that some alumni may not be have been inclined to donate before, but are now excited to help develop the new college.  

University takes steps to improve enrollment

In the past ten years enrollment has increased 10 percent across all University campuses, however, University Vice President Christophe Pierre said more enrollment is not reflected in the yearly freshman yield. 

In an effort to reverse the steadily decreasing yield, the University has implemented several strategic changes, including changing to a single admissions date at the Urbana campus, Pierre said. 

The change was experimental, said Charles Tucker, vice provost for undergraduate education and innovation, adding the University will decide whether to change the admissions process after the May 1 enrollment deadline. 

Trustees and Lucas Frye, Urbana’s student trustee, relayed concern from students, parents and grandparents about the single notification date. 

Trustee Timothy Koritz said many parents from his area in Rockford have told him their children have chosen other schools over Illinois for simple reasons. Before the University notified students of their admission, some had already chosen premium housing at other universities. 

Frye said he has heard similar concerns. Many schools required financial deposits before students were notified of their admission this year, causing students to opt for other schools because they didn’t want to risk losing their spot if they were not admitted to the University. 

Other trustees voiced concern about the steadily declining enrollment of minority students. Trustee Ricardo Estrada said there is not enough effort to welcome minority students to the University. 

Newly appointed trustee, Ramón Cepeda, said he would like to see more Illinois residents enrolled, regardless of their race. 

Pierre thanked the group for their insight and reiterated the University is making strategic moves to improve enrollment statistics.

Budgeting proposals made for Armory,

student insurance

A proposal will be made to renovate part of the Armory. The proposed renovation would remodel the south exterior of the building as well as the first and second floor office space. If approved, the $6.5 million project will be funded by the University’s institutional funds operating budget. 

A proposal for student health insurance plans for the 2015-2016 school year will also be presented Thursday. The cost of insurance for Urbana students will decrease by two percent, costing $286 in the fall semester. In total, the student insurance plan will cost about $25 million, providing students with 12 month coverage and eight insurance options. 

Additionally, the Board will vote on new faculty appointments for the summer and the 2015-2016 academic year. A total of 155 new hires at the Urbana campus will be decided on, 77 men and 78 women. 

Reports on the University’s investments and investment policy, as well as the University’s financial state will also be presented Thursday. 

At the March Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities committee meeting, Walter Knorr, chief financial officer, said the University is in full compliance with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s executive order to eliminate all unnecessary spending. 

[email protected]

@abisvoboda