SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. Chapin Rose wants the state to create a $100 million “rainmaker fund” to help the University of Illinois recruit top-tier faculty.
The Mahomet Republican said his proposed legislation stemmed from a conversation he recently had with UI Chancellor Robert Jones and Provost Andreas Cangellaris.
“They impressed upon me the enormous start-up costs involved in such world-class recruitment efforts due to the lab equipment necessary to get people interested,” Rose said. “They estimated it would take $100 million to really get in the hunt for top-shelf talent and put Illinois at the head of the pack.”
Other states, including New York, Tennessee and Texas, already have rainmaker funds, Rose said.
“If it’s being used as a tool against us, then it should be used as a tool against other states,” he said.
His legislation would focus on supporting engineering, business, math and the hard sciences at the Urbana campus, he said.
Rose said he’s a “realist and knows that new concepts in Springfield can take time to percolate to fruition.”
For it to pass, “We would have to bring other public universities into this,” Rose said. For example, “Western Illinois might not have the same need,” he said, but it “might have another need related to retaining faculty.”
“The goal here is to start a conversation” as budget negotiations start next month, Rose said.
The $100 million would be a one-time appropriation focused on one-time costs, such as building labs, Rose said.
The UI already has a program aimed at attracting “superstar” faculty. In 2017, the three-year, $60 million Distinguished Faculty Recruitment Program was created with the goal to recruit 10 to 15 faculty members a year.
So far, 19 professors have been hired through the program, UI President Tim Killeen told legislators Wednesday during the university’s annual budget hearing in Springfield.
Rose’s legislation would supplement this program.
“To his credit, his team has been engaging in an internal process to try to do this,” Rose said.
“What they found is that the return on investment to taxpayers and student tuition payers has been double. So if they spend $10 million on a lab build-out, they bring in $20 million in outside grants to Illinois.”
The UI has also committed to hiring more faculty in general as rising enrollment has increased the student-faculty ratio.
Last year, Killeen announced a five-year hiring initiative for the university’s three campuses, with the goal of adding 168 new positions for its Urbana campus.