News Local/State

UI’s Killeen, Wilson Weigh In On Impasse To Senators

In this Nov. 20, 2015 file photo, University of Illinois students walk across the Main Quad on campus in Urbana.

In this Nov. 20, 2015 file photo, University of Illinois students walk across the Main Quad on campus in Urbana. David Mercer/Associated Press

University of Illinois administrators are warning legislators that leading faculty are already looking for positions elsewhere amid a 9-month state budget impasse.  Addressing a Senate appropriations committee hearing Thursday, President Timothy Killeen said the instructors were among those he calls ‘economic miracles’, just under 200 faculty who bring in $500 milllion in annual research.

Interim Urbana Chancellor Barbara Wilson told the panel that the U of I’s number of retention cases, or those who have given notice they may leave, is up 76-percent.   

"I really fear for the brain drain right now,' she said. “I learned about a very high level prominent biology faculty member, who’s a Howard Hughes institute investigator – we only have three on our campus.   And he’s considering an offer at another Big Ten institution.  And he told me, ‘I don’t even want you to bother with a retention offer, cause I’m fed up with the state right now.”

Wilson also mentioned a 25-year faculty member in the U of I's College of Engineering who has left the university for Texas A & M, taking a lab he started in Champaign-Urbana and several graduate students with him.

Killeen also touched on the impact the budget impasse is having on student aid and recruitment.

The U of I has reserve funds in place this year, about $60-million, to help about 15,000 students university wide who rely on state-funded MAP grants. 

"We have a Hobson's choice," he said.  "Because we could say, ok, the state owes you those dollars, we’re going to just add it to your debt.  Or we could say we’re going to stand behind you, MAP students, and that it a very difficult choice for any university administrator to make."

But Killeen told senators that won’t be the case, should the impasse continue into the next fiscal year

The president said high school counselors in the Chicago area are advising students not to attend any public universities in the state due to the budget impasse. 

Killeen also addressed Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed 20-percent cut in the next fiscal year.  He says if that reduction was absorbed through payroll alone, it would cost the university nearly 2,000 jobs. 

That’s about 800 more than the number of workers let go when the Mitsubishi plant in Normal closed last year.