News Local/State

U of I Trustees Approve Medical School, Killeen Starts In May

Timothy L. Killeen speaks after being introduced as the next president of the University of Illinois on May 18.

In this Nov. 19, 2014 file photo, Timothy L. Killeen speaks after being introduced as the next president of the University of Illinois, in Chicago. He will start in his new role May 18. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees has voted to create a new medical school on the Urbana campus.  The project would found an engineering-focused medical program out of a partnership between the U of I and Urbana-based Carle Hospital.

The unanimous vote on Thursday means the university and Urbana-based Carle Foundation Hospital will negotiate the details of the hospital's pledge to provide $100 million to the project over 10 years.

Outgoing University president Bob Easter said the school would be a natural extension of the U of I's research focus.

"Many have described the combination of engineering and medicine as the next frontier of scientific advancement and one that has the potential of having a profound impact on the delivery of healthcare in our nation," he said.

Easter assured University trustees at a meeting Wednesday that the proposed program would not put extra strain on money the U of I gets from the state - as part of that funding could be on the General Assembly's chopping block.

Carle Hospital has pledged $100 million to the project over the next decade. Carle CEO, Dr. James Leonard, said the hospital system is all in.

"Our pledge for the next ten years is already in the bank...Our money's there and we're moving ahead and I don't anticipate any stepbacks," he said Wednesday.

Also Thursday, U of I Trustees announced that President Robert Easter's final day would May 17th, with President-designate Timothy Killeen starting the folllowing day.   Both will participate in May commencement activites on the U of I's three campuses on May 16.

Easter had originally retired from as U of I's chancellor in 2011, but was called out of retirement when President Michael Hogan resigned suddenly in 2012.

Kileen said he's eager to begin his job, and is prepared for the challenge of leading such a large university.

"The world we live in is changing around us faster than ever and so must we," he said.  "We must embrace those opportunities. It's an exciting time. It's a time where the decisions we make will chart our future for decades to come."

Killeen has been training with Easter since he was named the next president in November. He will be Illinois' highest-paid president ever, making $730,000 dollars his first year at the U of I.

Trustees have also installed UIC alumnus Ramon Cepeda as a new member to the board.  UIUC graduate Jill Smart, who was also appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, was unable to attend. 

Public universities in Illinois are bracing for significant cuts in state funding if the General Assembly passes a budget anything like Rauner's suggested spending plan.

The governor has proposed cutting state money to universities by one third next year.

University of Illinois CFO Walter Knorr says adjusted for inflation, that cut would take state support of the U of I back to 1950s levels. Student population in the University system is now three times that of six decades ago.

Additionally, Knorr says public universities may have to begin absorbing a greater part of employee expenses, in what's known as a "cost shift."

"I think we have to be wary," he said. "They are talking about University employers picking up an additional share of healthcare costs. That's going to be in play here this session."

Universities have been told before that they may have to pick up some of the state's pension tab...but that proposal was put on the back burner as the state litigates its pension overhaul law.