University of Illinois trustees consider first $4 billion budget

University of Illinois trustees consider first $4 billion budget

URBANA – The University of Illinois could soon be a $4 billion-a-year operation.

Trustees meeting Thursday in Chicago will vote on a preliminary 2008-09 budget that tops that threshold for the first time, despite flat state support.

The $4.1 billion spending plan includes a $14.1 million increase in state funding, but only because the university is taking over the state scientific surveys from the Department of Natural Resources. Without the extra $16.9 million for the surveys, the UI's general state tax support would fall by $1.7 million. The UI initially sought a $118 million state funding increase, or about 9 percent.

The figures are based on Gov. Rod Blagojevich's fiscal 2009 budget recommendations, which provided no overall increase for higher education. The deadline for legislative action on the budget is May 30, though last year's state budget wasn't finalized until August.

The UI budget plan reflects $48.3 million growth in tuition income from increases already approved by trustees. It projects 2.8 percent growth in private giving, or $4.2 million, and 2.8 percent growth in research funding.

The indirect cost recovery fund, money set aside from grants for overhead costs, is projected to shrink by 13.2 percent because the money is being diverted to cover rising utility prices and deficits in the UI's energy operations.

As for spending priorities, the budget allocates $6.8 million for salary increases and targeted faculty raises; a $3.6 million boost in financial aid to ensure access for students; $6.5 million to pay for a backlog of deferred maintenance, funded through a special facilities maintenance fee; $20.8 million to cover rising fuel costs and replace some utility infrastructure; and $10.6 million to cover other cost increases in insurance, operation of new buildings and Medicare taxes.

Overall, the budget would be 5.9 percen, or $229.1 million, greater than the current UI budget.

In other business:

Global Campus financing. The UI's online education program is asking for a $3.4 million loan from the university to cover expected deficits in fiscal 2009.

Trustees last year authorized a $6.5 million loan to get Global Campus started. Global Campus used $3.9 million of that, but the balance and more will be needed as the program expands next fall, officials said. The money is expected to be repaid once Global Campus becomes self-sustaining.

African-American studies. A 39-year-old program on African-American studies would become a full-fledged department with trustee approval Thursday. What is now the African-American Studies and Research Program began in 1969 as a committee on Afro- American concerns, then graduated to the Afro-American Studies and Research Program in 1974.

In the last six years it has created 43 new courses and now has 56 altogether. Since fall 2000, student course enrollment has grown from 296 to more than 2,500, and the unit has 18 faculty members, both full and part-time. The faculty-student senate already approved creating the Department of African-American Studies.

Electrical Engineering building. The board will be asked to hire BLDD Architects Inc. of Champaign to design the $75 million Electrical and Computer Engineering Building, to be located just south of the Beckman Institute.

The state has released $3 million for the planning and design of the four-story, 150,000-square-foot facility, which will consolidate programs from several north campus buildings. It will be funded with state money and private gifts.

Huff Hall addition. Trustees will vote on a $1 million contract with Ratio Architects of Champaign to design a 6,000-square-foot addition to Huff Hall. The $15 million project will provide interdisciplinary research space for the College of Applied Health Sciences.

Name change. Degrees in agricultural engineering would be designated as agricultural and biological engineering with trustee approval Thursday. The new name gives greater visibility to the biological emphasis of the program, officials said. The department's name was changed to Agricultural and Biological Engineering in 2003.

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