UI to hire hundreds more faculty over next 5 years to handle rise in enrollment

UI to hire hundreds more faculty over next 5 years to handle rise in enrollment

URBANA — The University of Illinois plans to hire hundreds of new faculty members across its three campuses over the next five years to accommodate rising enrollment and invest in strategic areas.

That would mean 168 new positions for the Urbana campus, in addition to faculty hired to replace professors who leave or retire.

President Tim Killeen announced the hiring initiative Thursday, telling trustees that the new positions are needed to meet record enrollment growth since fall 2014.

The UI has added 7,500 students in that time at its three campuses, a 9.5 percent increase, while faculty ranks have grown by just over 2 percent, he said. Applications are at another record high this year, he said.

Faculty hiring lagged as the university held down expenses during the two-year state budget impasse, which cost the UI several hundred million dollars, he said.

That's led to larger class sizes and student-faculty ratios, which affect education and the UI's national rankings — "which, like it or not, influence decisions of prospective students," Killeen said.

"Reinvesting in talent, faculty talent, is essential," he said.

Killeen said he asked the three provosts to assess faculty needs over the next five years, honing in on departments expected to add students, areas where the UI is already an "intellectual powerhouse," and the intersection of fields that hold promise, such as business and health care.

The Urbana campus hopes to hire 493 tenure-system faculty members over the next five years, including 325 replacement faculty and 168 new positions, which represents 9 percent growth.

Most of the new positions would be targeted at graduate and professional programs that have fueled Urbana's enrollment growth. But other hires would aim to reduce high student-faculty ratios in undergraduate areas that have them: engineering, computer science, business, statistics and information science. Other priority areas include economics and biological and health sciences, Killeen said.

Systemwide, the UI would hire 916 tenure-system faculty over the next five years, and roughly half, or 448, would be in new positions. Overall, the UI's faculty ranks would expand by 14 percent.

The initiative will require additional funding to support ongoing salaries and one-time startup costs, he said.

Officials didn't have a cost estimate yet, saying the first step was determining the needs at each campus.

"We know it's going to be in the millions of dollars for a period of years," spokesman Tom Hardy said later.

The money will come from a combination of state appropriations, tuition income and fundraising dollars, Killeen said, noting that the UI's ongoing $3.2 billion campaign just topped the $2 billion mark.

He said Gov. J.B. Pritzker's budget proposal, which would give the UI its biggest state budget increase in two decades, is also encouraging. The governor proposed a 5 percent increase in the UI's general operating funds, or an additional $26.8 million for next year, a chunk of which would go toward faculty hiring.

Killeen said the UI will continue to push for additional state funding in coming years, as well as its broader effort to win a multiyear funding commitment from the state in exchange for meeting targets on graduation rates and other measures.

"We think it's the best investment the state can make," in terms of retaining talent and fueling economic development, Killeen said.

Board Chairman Don Edwards said keeping student-faculty ratios in line with the UI's peers is important.

"Great students and faculty are the beating heart of any institution of higher learning. There's no more important thing than our faculty hiring," he said.

Insurance, other proposals approved

Agenda items approved by University of Illinois trustees Thursday:

— New student health insurance rates, including a 20 percent hike at Urbana to $544 a semester, though students can opt out if they're covered on their parents' plans.

— A new travel safety policy requiring all undergraduates traveling outside the U.S. as part of a UI activity to register their plans with the university, carry approved international insurance and attend mandatory orientations.

— A designation to name the new running track at Demirjian Park Stadium after legendary Illini track coach Gary Wieneke.

— A $4.4 million contract with CannonDesign, a New York-based consultant, to help prevent budget overruns for building projects at Altgeld Hall and Illini Hall. Several budget increases for other projects were also approved, including another $4 million for the Illinois Street Residence Halls renovation, to $59.5 million.

— A new dean for the UI College of Medicine in Chicago, Dr. Mark Rosenblatt, surgeon and head of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.