CHICAGO — Meeting the University of Illinois’ $780.5 million operating budget request for fiscal year 2025 would mean the state would take “one small step to reverse the decades-long erosion of operating appropriations for public universities.” , system officials argued in the overview section of a thick package prepared for administrators’ review Thursday in Chicago.
Here’s a breakdown of the system’s requested increases to its four-pronged academic operating budget.
‘SUCCESSFUL STUDENTS’Requested increase: $15,034,600
Health and wellness:
Focused primarily on mental health services, this budget item is reminiscent of the previous year’s request for $7.5 million to fund student support programming at each campus.
The funds will also support a system-wide symposium for students to identify mental health challenges and find solutions, which has become an annual event.
Continued focus on improving retention and graduation rates:
On the Urbana campus, this includes the Illinois Commitment Program, the Illinois Scholars Program, the UIUC Student Success Symposium, and work with the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities’ national Power by Publics initiative.
Financial assistance for resident university students:
Sixty-seven percent of college students systemwide received some form of financial aid in fiscal 2022, and 37% paid no tuition. This is also linked to higher retention and graduation rates.
ACADEMIC EXCELLENCERequested increase: $46,348,900
Recruitment and retention of faculty and staff:
Keeping pace with enrollment growth will require an increase in faculty numbers. The proposed hiring plan calls for 200 new faculty on the Urbana-Champaign campus over the next three years.
“Over the past 10 years, the U of I system has increased its enrollment by more than 21 percent, adding more than 16,206 students to its campuses. To keep pace with this record system-wide enrollment growth, we must recruit more teachers,” the budget request notes.
Recruitment of distinguished teachers:
Since launching in 2017, President Tim Killeen’s program to recruit highly distinguished faculty has resulted in attracting 39 “world-renowned experts” from institutions that include Duke, Harvard, Northwestern, Texas and Washington.
Among the faculty Illinois has courted from other campuses: Christy Landes and Stephan Link, professors of chemistry and electrical and computer engineering who recently left Rice – Landes to become the Jerry A. Walker Endowed Chair in chemistry, Link to become Charles W. and Genevieve M. Walton Endowed Professor.
As of fiscal year 2023, the average faculty salary on the Urbana campus is approximately $12,000 lower than the average salary at comparable universities. This portion of the funding will reduce, but not close, the wage gap.
“Without increased state support, our ability to compete and retain talent will be significantly compromised,” the document states.
INFLATIONARY COSTSRequested increase: $13,933,500
“The recent increase in the cost of energy due to inflation and supply chain issues has significantly increased” the system’s operating costs, the request reads, adding that the UI has had to allocate increasing resources to “provide the needs primary energy supplies needed to heat, cool, power, light and meet water and sanitation needs across all three campuses.”
General price increases:
The level of increase in appropriations in recent years has not kept pace with rising inflation, with pandemic-related supply chain issues adding a new wrinkle. “To stem further funding erosion, additional state funding is needed,” UI officials say.
CYBER SECURITY INFRASTRUCTURERequested increase: $3,750,000
The university’s reasons for this category, as stated in the budget request: “Technology is incorporated into each of the core missions. … Our classrooms are filled with computers, projectors, Internet connectivity and clickers. Each year our students bring an average of five portable devices (e.g. smartphones, iPads, laptops) to campus, which they use throughout their daily lives to support their education whether on campus, at home or while traveling.
“Our world-class researchers need cutting-edge computing capabilities to support their work solving intractable social problems. Indeed, the University of Illinois system is known throughout the state and the world as a center of innovation and technology-rich, requiring us to stay current in information technology. And this effort is expensive but valuable, as we experienced during the pandemic, when we rapidly expanded online course offerings and moved many employees to remote work environments.”
Among the methods of using financing:
Mitigation of cybersecurity risks. Data management for increasingly automated systems. Increased stability and resilience for IT services. Upgrading hardware and software, especially the UI system’s 20-year-old enterprise resource planning software. This will be a multi-year project to move data to the cloud.
— LUCA TAYLOR