November 12, 2008
By Ashley Rueff
The Board of Trustees is expected to address hot issues like the university's budget in the financial crisis and the accreditation of the Global Campus at its Thursday meeting at UIS.
President Joe White, in a letter sent to the university communities Oct. 28., said he will brief the board members about plans to brace the UI system against the tough economy.
White plans to present plans from university leaders that will deal with financial hardships that could occur in the next six to 18 months. He added that the plans must protect academic quality, ensure student access to courses and health care, and share any sacrifices required because of financial strain.
“My message is that we must be prepared for the possibility of reduced state support, some students and families struggling with tuition bills, difficult research grant and contract conditions, and reduced income from the University’s endowment,” White said. “The University is in a reasonable position financially to weather a difficult economic period... We cannot, however, fully immunize ourselves from the painful effects of a severe recession.”
“We must be prepared for the
reduced state support.”
University of Illinois President
Student trustees from each of the UI campuses are also expected to speak to the board Thursday about finances. In a letter published in the three student newspapers, the student trustees asked university administrators who make more than $150,000 a year to voluntarily accept a two-year salary freeze to ease the financial strain on the university and students.
“This request is out of no animosity towards any administrator or their staff – it is just the unfortunate realization that large expenditures mean large bills for students,” the letter said.
In other business, the board's Academic Affairs Committee is scheduled to discuss Global Campus, the online component of the UI system launched in January. The program offers online degree programs in conjunction with the three UI ground universities.
White wants to seek accreditation for the program so it can operate independently as a fourth campus. Instead of putting the topic on the main agenda for the Board of Trustees meeting, it was placed on the Academic Affairs Committee Agenda for discussion.
Currently, Global Campus must partner with one of the three ground campuses to operate degree programs. So far, enrollment and faculty interest from the other campuses has been lower than anticipated.
“The potential academic partners that we have approached have been apprehensive about the perceived work load of developing courses,” said Chet Gardner, chief executive of Global Campus and special assistant to the president. “They are very much focused on serving the students that are in residence on campus, which is understandable.”
Accreditation would allow Global Campus to employ its own faculty and operate programs without the assistance of another campus.
Some voices at UIS have expressed concern that having an independent online degree program could endanger the academic quality and reputation of the UI campuses, as well as compete for students.
Pat Langley, chair of the UIS Campus Senate, said she is concerned about how big of a role adjunct faculty will have in the Global Campus.
“Using adjuncts is a really good thing, but there are online models where the whole program is offered by adjuncts,” she said. “It's a question of proportionality.”
The Campus Senate forwarded a report to the Board of Trustees, asking them to explore other options before pursuing accreditation for Global Campus.
They suggested that with more resources, online academics at UIS could expand to meet the goals of the Global Campus, which are to offer low cost, career enhancing degrees in high demand disciplines, especially at the undergraduate level.
“Given additional resources, the campus is prepared to entertain the opportunity to accelerate enrollments in our current programs and to expand degrees and certificates,” the report said. “Expansion, however, must be consistent with the UIS model of online education.”
The board meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday in Conference Rooms C and D. After committee meetings, the board will reconvene at 3:30 p.m. to consider the agenda. For more information, visit www.uillinois.edu/ trustees/agendas.cfm