News Local/State

U Of I Trustees Endorse Metric-Based Funding Plan

U of I President Tim Killeen discusses the performance-based funding measure before university Trustees Thursday in Chicago.

U of I President Tim Killeen discusses the performance-based funding measure before university Trustees Thursday in Chicago. Screen Shot/U of I Trustees

The University of Illinois is offering state lawmakers a deal: The school will meet several access and accountability benchmarks - if the state will pledge five years of stable funding. President Tim Killeen says the 5-year pact would guarantee ‘baseline’ state funding would increase by the rate of inflation during each remaining year.

The ongoing budget impasse has been hard on higher education.

Colleges and universities across Illinois have been starved for state money for more than a year, subsisting on stop-gap budgets that amount to a mere fraction of the state’s usual support. But a plan proposed by U. of I. president Tim Killeen would commit Illinois to giving his school the same amount of funds it got in 2015 -- for the next five years.

“The General Assembly would vote annually to appropriate the agreed upon funds to the University of Illinois provided we on our side at the university system had met our commitments in this compact," he said.

In exchange, the U of I's three campuses to admit more Illinois students, provide more financial aid, and maintain above-average retention and graduation rates.

Killeen calls the bill the first in Illinois history to combine university performance with state law – at a time when unstable funding is driving many college students out of the state.

“It does reflect, out of the box, strategic thinking at a time when our state and university inarguably need it most," he said. "And it does fundamentally reflect a bedrock commitment to fulfill our key role at the university system as an economic engine for the state, ensuring impact through accountability.”

The measure would also mean reforms that exempt the U of I from procurement codes that often cause delays in faculty research.

U of I Trustees unanimously endorsed the plan. A bi-partisan group of lawmakers attended Killeen's announcement to show their support for House Bill 6623, also known as the Investment, Performance, and Accountability Commitment, or IPAC.

"The U of I remains a beacon for the state of Illinois under turbulent times," said sponsor and State Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside), who believes prospective students and their parents will rally behind this measure.

"We have our work cut out for us in Springfield getting this passed, in large part due to the climate we're dealing with in Springfield," said Senator and sponsor Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago.) "But this is a proposal that has bipartisan support, and I think as something that is laid out to ordinary citizens, voters and taxpayers in Illinois, it's something that is very attractive to them."

Co-sponsors include State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana), Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), and Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet.)