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State Funding for Higher Ed. Still Concern for New UI Chancellor

The next chancellor of the University of Illinois' Urbana campus says she is ready to get to work.

Dr. Phyllis Wise spoke to members of the university community Tuesday about her upcoming role at the U of I. Wise is currently the provost and executive vice president at the University of Washington. But she is expected to start her new job at the U of I in a couple of months.

Wise said she knows a lot about the financial challenges facing universities. She said UW has dealt with deep funding cuts in recent years from its state legislature.

"In Washington, they provide relatively little amount of money toward our overall budget," Wise said. "It's been pretty grim, but the state legislature really realized that they could not do it themselves, and they gave us tuition delegating authority."

Wise said UW administrators raised tuition by 20 percent, after increasing it 14 percent during each of the two previous years. She also said financial aid was increased at UW to expand the pool of students eligible for assistance.

Last spring, tuition at the U of I went up by 6.9 percent for the next school year. Wise said she suspects she will have a big role working with the Illinois General Assembly to convince lawmakers to raise state support for higher education.

Chris Kennedy, who chairs the U of I's Board of Trustees, said he is confident Wise's experience as a researcher and administrator will help the university boost support from the state and individual research grants.

"I think the fact that we were able to recruit her sends a strong message all over the United States that the University of Illinois is a place for great researchers and academic achievers," Kennedy said. "We want to increase our research grants and contracts because those are the grants and contracts that attract the great researchers. Those great researchers attract the great graduate students, who attract the great students. You have this tremendous snowball effect."

Kennedy said he expects the Board of Trustees will unanimously approve Wise's appointment, so that she can start Oct. 1st. If approved, all three U of I chancellors will be women for the first time.

Wise was chosen about three weeks ago after a nearly nine-month search, but her appointment wasn't made public until last week, according to UI Physics Professor Doug Beck, who led the search committee.

U of I President Michael Hogan has confirmed that Wise will earn $500,000 a year and $100,000 per year deferred if she stays in the position for five years.

Wise would replace interim Chancellor Robert Easter, who took the job after the 2009 resignation of Richard Herman following an admissions scandal.

"We are at a pivotal time in higher education," Easter said. "What's the future of a major research university like this? I think we're perfectly poised to discover that future. My advice (to her) would not be bashful to thinking about the faculty and leadership about how we move ahead aggressively in areas that will create our future."

Easter said following his two-year stint as interim chancellor, he hopes to gain emeritus status. He also said he plans to occasionally come back to the U of I to teach in the Department of Animal Sciences.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)