LIVE: UI trustees approve tuition, more

LIVE: UI trustees approve tuition, more

Update: 4:05 p.m.

UI Board of Trustees' meeting adjourns after presentation by a student from Beyond Coal, a group pressing the university to divest from any holdings in coal companies. Trustees did not respond, as is the board's practice.


Update: 3 p.m.

For the second year in a row the UI's Urbana campus has seen a record number of applications for admission.

As of this month, 35,424 students had applied for admission in fall 2014, up from the previous record of 33,181 last year, Chancellor Phyllis Wise told trustees today.

The largest increase was from U.S. students living in other states, up 18 percent over last year, she said.

Applications from minority students also rose by 6 percent.

Campus officials generally aim for a freshman class of about 7,000 students, though this year's class totals 7,331 students, in part because more international students accepted offers of admission.

More than half of this year's freshmen scored in the top 5 percent of those who took the ACT, and 36 percent scored in the top 2 percent, Wise said.

The general application deadline for admission in fall 2014 was Jan. 2, though some programs accept students later. Admissions decisions will be announced on Feb. 14, though students who applied by the Nov. 1 priority filing date were notified on Dec. 13.

Update: 1:34 p.m.

After a lunch break and another closed session, UI trustees are resuming their public meeting with performances of "Blue Skies" and "Moondance" by Dee Alexander, a UI employee and a Chicago musician.

On tap this afternoon are reports from the chancellors, campus senates, the UI Foundation and Alumni Association, as well as a presentation on UI Labs, a public-private research and development lab to be based in Chicago.


Update 1:10 p.m.

Despite concerns about escalating athletic salaries, board Chairman Chris Kennedy said he has no problem with the raise approved today for Athletic Director Mike Thomas. The change brings Thomas' salary to $554,321 annually, plus up to $300,000 a year in bonuses.

"In that job you eat what you kill," Kennedy told The News-Gazette during a break in today's meeting.

"So we need somebody who's multifaceted -- who's good at recruiting coaches but also raising money. And I think Mike's shown that he's capable of meeting both of those challenges. The fact that we've gone this long without an academic scandal, or a scandal of any kind, is pretty remarkable," he said.

Trustee James Montgomery raised concerns about athletic pay when Thomas' contract was discussed in committee earlier this month.

Kennedy agreed that compensation levels are "incredible," but said the UI is just one university among a few thousand across the country.

"We can't control the market, but we can act as prudently as possible, given the rules of the game," Kennedy said.

"Can we collude with our peers to keep down compensation for employees? I think that sounds illegal," he said.

Kennedy noted that even if Thomas receives all the potential bonuses in his contract, "he'll be in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. It gives you a sense of what others are willing to pay."


Update: 12:40 p.m.

Trustees earlier today heard from UI Chief Financial Officer Walter Knorr and Richard Dye of the UI’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs on the state and the university's fiscal conditions. Here's what they had to say.

Dye offered a gloomy financial forecast for the state.

While unemployment nationally has steadily declined, down to 7 percent in November, the state unemployment rate remains around 8.7 percent, still 3 percentage points above 2008 levels.

"Illinois is still in a bad place,” Dye said.

There’s been some improvement but that’s because the labor force is shrinking as people give up looking for jobs, he said.

A recent Moody’s report on employment prospects for 2014 show Illinois “dead last” among the 50 states, he said.

Dye also said the state needs to do something besides pension reform to tackle its growing deficits.

The IGPA released a report this week saying that, while the reform would eventually eliminate the public pension system’s unfunded liability, it would make only a small dent in the state’s growing deficits. The state deficit would increase to $13 billion by 2025, about $1 billion less than if the reforms weren’t enacted, the report said.

“It’s a partial fix,” Dye said.

Keeping higher income tax rates in place after January 2015, when they’re set to expire, would help, trimming the deficit to roughly $6 billion in 2025, he said.
“The state still has a sizable gap going forward,” Dye said.

In his update on the university’s financial condition, CFO Knorr said the university has received all of its fiscal year 2013 state appropriation. It also has received the $28.8 million in MAP (monetary award program) payments from the state for the current year. MAP is the state’s financial assistance program for low-income college students.

After receiving a payment from the state this morning, the UI is owed $386 million (on its $663 million total appropriation for the current fiscal year), according to Knorr. At this time last year the state owed the university almost $500 million, he said.

Chairman Kennedy said if the state didn’t owe the university about $500 million on
occasion, the university would be able to invest that money, and assuming an annual return of about 8 percent, it could use income from those investments to provided free tuition for about 4,000 students.

“There’s a real impact on not getting paid. That impact is our ability to compete with other institutions,” Kennedy said, referring to the recent announcement by the Cleveland Clinic’s medical school to offer free tuition.

Update: 11:35 a.m.

After hearing an update from Chief Financial Officer Walter Knorr on the university's finances and a review of activities of the board's committees, trustees voted on the agenda items.

Trustee approved the following:

-- Tuition, housing and fee rates for the 2014-2015 academic year. Increases total $471, or 1.8 percent, for freshmen at Urbana campus. Base tuition would rise to $12,036 annually; housing and tuition rates are guaranteed for four years.

-- A raise and contract extension for UI athletic director Mike Thomas. His annual base salary will increase to $554,321, plus he'll be eligible for up to $300,000 a year in bonuses; he is also eligible for retention bonus worth $500,000 total if he stays five years.

-- A resolution that directs UI administrators to explore a possible supplemental retirement benefit for UI employees before new pension reforms are implemented June 1.

-- A bond sale to finance the $165 million State Farm Center renovation and $76.7 million residential hall project in Urbana.

Trustees then adjourned for a short break and planned to hold another closed session during the noon hour to discuss a variety of issues, including pending litigation, employment matters and collective bargaining.

Update: 10:15 a.m.

In its first order of business of the day, the board unanimously re-elected Chris Kennedy to a fifth full term as chairman.

Trustee James Montgomery nominated Kennedy, saying he has provided the university with “thoughtful and strong guidance when the university faced difficult challenges.

"Certainly we hope the challenges during the next year will be less intense. Should they not, I am confident he will ... guide the university well," Montgomery said.

Trustees Edward McMillan and Pamela Strobel will also continue to serve on the board's executive committee with Kennedy, as they have since the board was reorganized in 2009.

Kennedy, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, was first appointed trustee in September 2009 after most former members resigned following the Category I admissions scandal, in which politically connected students received admission over more qualified applicants. The new board named him chairman until January 2010, when he was elected to a year-long term. He's been re-elected each year since.

Update: 10 a.m.

The meeting just kicked off with a performance of the state song, "Illinois."

Update: 9:40 a.m.

The UI Board of Trustees currently is in closed session. This is not unusual. Trustees typically meet in executive session before they convene their regular meeting. And it's not uncommon for executive sessions to run long.

CHICAGO — On a windy and bitterly cold Chicago morning, the nine-member University of Illinois Board of Trustees plus three student trustees from the campuses will assemble in the student union today.

The group has a full plate: setting tuition, fees and room and board rates for the next school year, approving a raise and contract extension for Urbana's athletic director and okaying preliminary plans to explore a possible supplemental retirement plan for employees. Trustees also are expected to authorize a revenue bond sale that will finance the ambitious State Farm Center renovation and the next phase of the Ikenberry Commons residential and dining hall complex in Champaign.

On today's agenda

Today's University of Illinois trustees' meeting starts at 8:10 a.m. at the UI Chicago Student Center West. It will begin with a closed session; public session is expected to start at 9:30 a.m. Highlights of the agenda:

Tuition, housing and fee increases totaling $471, or 1.8 percent, for freshmen at Urbana campus in 2014-15. Base tuition would rise to $12,036 annually; housing and tuition rates are guaranteed for four years.

A raise and contract extension for UI athletic director Mike Thomas. Proposal calls for annual base salary of $554,321, plus up to $300,000 a year in bonuses; he is also eligible for retention bonus worth $500,000 total if he stays five years.

A resolution directing administrators to explore a possible supplemental retirement benefit for UI employees before new pension reforms are implemented June 1. Review will include study of benefits offered by other universities and possible input from consultants and employee groups.

Authorization of a bond sale to finance $165 million State Farm Center renovation and $76.7 million residential hall project in Urbana.

FOR MORE: To see all agenda items, go to:

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