UI's online education plan reviewed

UI's online education plan reviewed

URBANA – Over the next few months the University of Illinois will be building a new campus.

But staff won't be building new dormitories or classrooms for this new campus, as Chester Gardner, special assistant to UI President B. Joseph White told UI trustees Thursday.

"But we will be doing everything else," he said in a presentation about the UI's new distance learning venture tentatively called Global Campus.

That means considering everything from determining tuition to choosing the program's colors. (They won't be orange and blue.)

Thursday's presentation comes several months after Gardner submitted a 54-page report to the university about the Global Campus project. The report outlines challenges and opportunities, suggestions for how Global Campus should be structured (as a limited liability company), a survey on the online education market and the online ventures of peer institutions, as well as other details.

The UI estimates Global Campus will cost $20 million until it breaks even, projected to occur sometime between the fourth and sixth years of operation.

Trustees have yet to approve the project.

White told trustees he expects to bring a "specific, actionable proposal" regarding Global Campus to the next board meeting on Nov. 9 in Springfield.

White told the board he believes the university should be a leader in providing quality education to large numbers of people at an affordable price. And Global Campus is a way to do that.

"This is not strictly about online education," he said. "The future of higher education will be a rich mix of online and in-person education."

A launch date is set for January 2007.

"I think we need to think this one through," said Trustee Niranjan Shah at the meeting. Shah said he has no problem with the Global Campus concept, but was surprised at how quickly the project is moving forward. There should be more than a short presentation and discussion at a board meeting regarding the project, he added.

"I'm just really surprised and shocked at how quickly we are going about it," Shah said.

After the initial development of Global Campus, after the independent accreditation, how will the quality of the program be maintained? asked Trustee Ken Schmidt. What controls will be put in place? he asked.

Gardner said he believes the UI has a good plan and a good organizational structure for Global Campus. However, it could benefit from wider consultation with the community and he expects to meet with faculty on all three campuses this fall.

Budget approved

On Thursday, UI trustees approved a $3.67 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2007 as well as a budget request for fiscal year 2008.

The fiscal year 2008 request to the state is 8 percent, or $101 million, more than 2007. The request focuses on funding repairs to buildings, salaries and strategic initiatives.

According to the request, the UI is seeking $37.7 million for faculty and staff raises and $28.8 million for strategic initiatives on the three campuses, including $13.9 million for Urbana.

The UI is also seeking $262 million for a separate capital budget request which covers repairs and new facilities.

As for the capital budget request list, the No. 1 priority is $21.5 million for campus repairs and renovations, followed by $41.6 million for deferred maintenance. Third on the list is $53 million to renovate Lincoln Hall on the Urbana campus.

Now that trustees have approved the state budget request, the UI sends it to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The IBHE will then consider the request before sending it to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office and the General Assembly.

As trustees discussed budget issues, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 698 rallied outside of the Illini Union for a new contract.

"No contract. No peace. Can you hear us in there? What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!" they shouted.

The union's contract expired in August 2005 and members of the negotiating team have been meeting with the UI since then. A federal mediator has recently started working with the two parties.

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