Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 11, 2010

Illinois Athletic Staff Welcome Nebraska to the Big Ten

Illinois coaches and officials are welcoming Nebraska to the Big Ten though few Illini teams have recent experience against the Cornhuskers.

Athletic Director Ron Guenther on Friday called Nebraska a good fit for the Big Ten. The Big Ten accepted Nebraska Friday after the Cornhuskers opted to leave the Big 12. The move is part of what could be major shift in college athletics. Illini football coach Ron Zook welcomed Nebraska's strong football tradition. Men's basketball coach Bruce Weber said he expects the Cornhuskers to be a tough opponent. Illinois football is 2-7-1 all time against Nebraska but the two haven't played since 1986. Illini men's basketball is 7-2 against the 'Huskers but hasn't played them since 1990.

Categories: Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 11, 2010

U of I Gets Federal Money To Start On-Line Textbook Initiative

A University of Illinois Administrator says the school can take the lead in moving some textbooks to the web.

A $150,000 grant from the U-S Department of Education will enable administrators to pick one or two books as a kind of pilot project. Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Charles Evans says the first advantage of the funds will be saving students the cost of a textbook. But the U of I will also be able to share these open source textbooks with other schools, like Parkland College and Northwester, where professors on those campuses can add their own lessons. The grant is intended to last one year, and could be continued... but Evans says one hope is for faculty to initiate their own on-line textbooks.

"We know how to publish a textbook," said Evans. "So we want to wet their appetites to doing more in that work.- because there are commercial entities who are in this field already. We could go back for another grant to do more, but I think there are organizations and other corporations that would be interested in working with our faculty." Evans says the on-line initiative was spearheaded by US Senator Dick Durbin, who's been vocal about the rising cost of college textbooks. Evans says another key to the grant is helping community colleges. "Once we come up with a topic, we will bring in community college faculty to say, 'how can we best work with you in this topic?," Evans said. The grant was announced by U-S Senator Roland Burris' office on Thursday.

Categories: Education, Technology

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 11, 2010

UI, Visiting Academic Professionals Come to Terms on Tentative Contract

About 350 employees on the University of Illinois campus have a tentative contract agreement with their employer. The two-year agreement would cover about 350 visiting academic professionals - on Thursday night their bargaining unit announced that members had ratified the agreement. No details have been announced yet. The U of I Board of Trustees will vote on the tentative agreement in July.

Categories: Education, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 09, 2010

Quinn Extends Borrowing Power to Cash-Hungry Community Colleges

Governor Pat Quinn's signature extends the power to borrow money to Illinois' community colleges.

Earlier this week legislation that the governor signed gave the same ability to state universities - nearly all public higher education institutions are awaiting backlogged payments from the state, and many of those schools say the delays have prompted them to cut budgets and scrape to make payroll.

In signing the borrowing authority bill in Danville Wednesday, Governor Quinn said the two-year schools now have another tool to work through the state's budget crisis. Republican Representative Bill Black admits that the new borrowing power is only a Band-Aid.

"I know some of you in the media looked at the three bills and said 'this doesn't solve all the problems' -- no it doesn't, and I don't think the governor will give any the indication that it does," Black said. "But they're all small steps that we can take, and when the state gets back on its feet - and it will -- I think the bills he's signing today will help."

Two other bills the Governor signed Wednesday allow more frequent state payments to community colleges and let the state Community College Board limit some travel reimbursements. Colleges would still have to get the approval of their trustees to issue more bonds.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 04, 2010

Court-Mandated Unit 4 Committee Member Says Panel Lacks Direction

A member of the Champaign school district committee aimed at reviewing equity areas is frustrated by the group's lack of progress after one semester.

The Education Equity Excellence Committee was mandated by a court through Unit 4's consent decree settlement. Melodye Rosales says some members fail to understand that they're supposed to help guide district administrators, and have things the other way around based on vague language on how the committee operates. The triple-E committee is assigned with looking at academic progress among minority students in areas like special education, Advanced Placement courses, and discipline areas. The panel is also reviewing the results of a racial climate study done at Unit 4 by a University of Illinois psychology professor. It's one Rosales contends was a waste of district resources.

"We could do it for free," said Rosales, implying there were other departments at the U of I, like its Informatics Institute, where such a study wouldn't require thousands of dollars. "I gave them a road map on how to do it for free every year. We could get a general idea of what happens, we could work with the university, they could process the information. We don't need to spend $58,000 or $74,000 on something that's not even worth the paper it's written on at this point and time." Rosales also contends Unit 4 has done a poor job of promoting the Triple-E committee, and needs to be meeting more often.

But Champaign School Board President and committee member Dave Tomlinson says the committee is taking the right approach to focusing on broad issues, and is glad the panel plans to expand its meeting schedule in the fall. "I think the committe has got a large task and we need to make sure we keep the district moving in the right direction, and also to make sure the community feels involved," said Tomlinson. "I think we're on that path, and we've got a varied group of people here that has the information that they need to make the decisions." A task force will lay out that meeting schedule before the triple-E committee meets this fall.

Categories: Education, Race/Ethnicity

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2010

Another Year of Status Quo for IL Legislator Scholarship Program

A bill designed to change Illinois' often-abused legislative scholarship program is heading nowhere, and that means lawmakers may avoid one more touchy vote before the fall election.

The Senate faces a deadline next week to consider Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of the measure. But a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton says senators have no plans to return to the Capitol by then.

Cullerton is a Chicago Democrat who sponsored a series of restrictions on the scholarships rather than support an outright ban passed by the House.

Quinn vetoed Cullerton's proposal on May 11, saying he preferred to eliminate the program.

Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon says this particular bill is dead but the issue isn't.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2010

Family Searches for Son, a Missing U of I Student

Relatives and friends have been looking for two weeks for a missing University of Illinois student but so far have no leads.

Police in Urbana say Nizam Ahmed was last seen May 17 packing up his car at the mosque in Urbana where he lived. He was supposed to arrive in Indianapolis to visit relatives later that day.

Urbana police Detective Matt Quinley says investigators have no reason to believe foul play was involved. He says they've received no tips about the 23-year-old Danville native.

Relatives say he left his cell phone behind and there's been no activity on bank accounts.

Ahmed's father, Syed Ahmed, says hundreds of people are praying for his son.

Categories: Biography, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 01, 2010

Parkland Offering Help to Adults Heading Back to School

More and more adults are going back to college to resume their studies or start from scratch - but they also fear standing out in a class of 19 or 20 year old students.

But the head of the adult re-entry center at Champaign's Parkland College says that's one common misconception of higher education. Billie Mitchell's program helps about 450 older students navigate the college routine, and she says those students make up a growing percentage in many Parkland courses.

"The younger students learn a lot from the experienced students and vice versa," Mitchell assured. "So don't be afraid of that -- very seldom is it going to be 24 19-year-olds and only one person who's raising a family and that sort of thing."

But Mitchell says another misconception among returning adult students is that they can jump right into college again without much planning. She says financial aid is among the facets of college life that adult students have to prepare for well before any deadlines. That's why Parkland is hosting a "transitions" workshop next month for students who are considering juggling college with their family and career lives. The workshop is set for July 8th.

Categories: Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 01, 2010

UI Flash Index Drops Again, Recovery Not as Sure

The University of Illinois Flash Index recorded its lowest level since September.

The index fell in May to 90.6, its second consecutive month in decline following a six month increase. Fred Giertz of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs compiles the Flash Index. He said the drop isn't attributable to any one cause.

The recovery is kind of slowing and not as strong as people thought and hoped," Giertz said. "May was also a bad month for the stock market, so I think there's some lack of confidence now. It's been too much of a downturn. Next month it will be important to see where it goes from there."

Giertz says he expects the economy to get better but it will be a slow process. He says unemployment is still high and the state is going to experience a more painful recovery than it has experienced in recessions in roughly the past 20 years.

The Flash Index is a weighted average based on state corporate, personal income and sales tax receipts. Any number below 100 indicates economic contraction.

Categories: Business, Economics, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 27, 2010

UI Wind Turbine Project Has New Life

University of Illinois administrators will renew their efforts to place a wind turbine on the Urbana campus.

In 2005, the U of I had initially sought three turbines for the south farms. Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement Steve Sonka says cost overruns caused former Chancellor Richard Herman to put the project on hold. But administrators are now asking the Clean Energy Community Foundation to extend a $2 million grant for the turbine. The grant was set to expire July 1st... but Sonka says administrators should be able to extend the use of those funds for enough time to get the turbine in place. Sonka says turbine costs have gone down, and Interim Chancellor Robert Easter was supportive of what the U of I would make back on a single turbine over time. "Chancellor Easter asked the F&S (Facilities and Services) people to look at the return, and for our portion of the investment, it's a reasonably attractive financial and energy saving environmental return," said Sonka. "A simple payback period 7 to 8 years is pretty attractive for a capital investment."

Sonka says the campus has undertaken many energy saving projects since 2005, including the replacement of inefficient heating and cooling systems - and pursing the turbine now makes sense. The grant would be partnered with funds from a $500,000 student fee, and Sonka says U of I would sell bonds to cover the remaining cost, around $2 million. Sonka says a new state procurement law taking effect in July also forces the university to wait until then to send out requests for proposals. Members of the U of I Student Sustainability Committee applauded the move. President Suhail Barot says the turbine is another factor that will help move forward the campus climate action plan of reducing energy use by 40% by the year 2025.

Categories: Education, Energy, Environment

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