News Local/State

U of I Trustees Approve Tuition Freeze, Formally Hire Killeen

New U of I President Timothy Killeen

In this Nov. 19, 2014 file photo, University of Illinois board Chairman Christopher Kennedy, left, applauds as Timothy L. Killeen, right, is introduced as the next president of the University of Illinois in Chicago (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

University of Illinois Trustees have approved the first zero-percent tuition increase for in-state freshman in 20 years.

The decision at Thursday's meeting in Chicago takes effect in the fall, and comes after two years of tuition hikes keyed to the rate of inflation, or 1.7 percent. 

Administrators say it’s about attracting more in-state students, and making the U of I an attractive destination.

Trustee Ricardo Estrada said the tuition freeze will require the U of I to be more efficient in the way it uses its revenues, and to work with legislators to keep the cost of an education down.

“Make sure they understand the value of the University of Illinois, the four year guaranteed tuition, the ability to get kids to graduate at rates that are very favorable," he said.  "And also, I think it’s the responsibility of the board to look for other revenues for this university.”

The U of I’s incoming President, Timothy Killeen, called this an important statement regarding affordability and accessibility.

“I think we have to rebalance, and recommit to excellence and integrity on all fronts," he said.  "But I think that core commitment to the students of the state of Illinois is very important.  And I hope that’s seen and felt by all the stakeholders.”

Students will have to pay a little more for room and board and other campus fees to help offset the costs.  But the U of I's Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller Walter Knorr says the university's fiscal health rests with Springfield.

One third of the schools’ roughly one billion dollar budget comes from the state--more than any other Big Ten School.  But Knorr said the state has been late to pay its bills.

It currently owes the university system $357-million.

"There’s great concern with that backlog of bills that this is going to stretch again," he said.

Administration and members of the board are waiting to see how Governor Bruce Rauner plans to handle these and other debts during his budget address next month.

In a busy morning Thursday, U of I Trustees also formally approved Killeen's hiring.  He's expected to take over for the retiring Robert Easter in July, but may begin his job earlier.

U of I Trustees also have a new chairman, unanimously naming Republican Ed McMillan to replace outgoing Chair Chris Kennedy.  Kennedy, a Democrat, expected not to be reappointed with the election of Governor Bruce Rauner. 

Trustees also unanimously approved Michael D. Amiridis as chancellor and vice president of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and approved a raise and 3-year contract extension for U of I Volleyball coach Kevin Hambly.