Meeting Notes

May 25, 2016 meeting discussion points

1.   The State’s Financial Condition
It was noted that the U of I received approximately $180 million ($169 million to UA and campuses, $11 million to the hospital) in the recent “emergency” appropriation, representing approximately 27% of the Fall 2015 total. 

So far the campuses have absorbed this reduction.  The University should be able to absorb a 20% reduction for FY 2017 based upon the plans that each campus and UA have devised.  If the budget standoff continues into the summer, UA may run out of cash.  How the University manages its cash is essential to its ability to continue to function.

Tuition increases are not seen as a solution to the budgetary stalemate.  The U of I’s tuition is second to only Penn State in the Big 10, so will probably not increase in the near future.  Enrollments probably will increase.  The campuses are working on enrollment planning scenarios for the next five years; they will be submitted in mid-June.

Health insurance costs are expected to increase significantly this coming year.  Also, the state is developing a silver—gold—platinum hierarchy of plans.  Health insurance costs are seen as a larger impediment to faculty and staff recruiting and retention than the pension situation because they have a more immediate impact on personal finances. 

The importance of leadership in times of financial exigency was highlighted.  

2.   UA Organizational Review
A consulting firm has studied the organization of UA in the context of other systems of higher education in the U.S.  It will suggest ways to reduce costs and better align services with the campuses.

3.  Strategic Framework
It was suggested that the final draft of the Strategic Framework be briefer.

March 28, 2016 meeting discussion points

1.   The State’s financial condition: How much does it affect faculty recruitment and retention?  Faculty brain-drain: Does it appear to be growing?
Both recruitment and retention are of major concern on all campuses. Retention at Urbana is of great concern, as there is anecdotal evidence that in the current environment some of the best and brightest are being cherry-picked.

The group discussed staff and faculty morale and mood in the departments and colleges: prospects for funding, salaries, and pensions are all bleak. The State legislative situation makes it hard to provide assurances to younger faculty, just hitting their stride. There is real concern about an inevitable slide to mediocrity unless the financial situation is addressed quickly.

2.   U of I campuses: How large should they become?
Each campus is working on an enrollment plan, with targets of 10%, 15%, and 20% increases in the number of degrees granted.  The point was made that we need substantiated reasons to increase enrollments significantly; for instance, a compelling business plan, and substantiated program demand in selected fields.   With UIUC’s admit rate at about 66%, it may be difficult to achieve significant enrollment increases for Illinois residents, unless increases in yield can be realized.

3.  Strategic Planning: Review of Most Recent Draft (03/24/2016)
While considerably improved from the previous version, the current draft contains a number of ambiguous, unclear, or even seemingly misleading statements. For instance, achieving some of the plan goals seems to require considerable resources, which are not available at the University.  While some of the goals seem implementable, others are laudable but quite generic and ambitious, and as a result they may not be realistic.  The draft is also unclear about who its intended audience is.    The language “we” is used extensively in the draft, however it is not clear that the “we" referred to remains the same throughout. Finally, the plan needs to focus chiefly on what UA can do to add value to the University, as opposed to what the campuses will be doing.  The discussion focused on how to address these issues in the next version of the plan, in order to lay out a roadmap for a successful implementation phase.

December 17, 2015 meeting discussion points

  • Four issues weigh heavily in area of academic resource management:
  • State budget crisis – no budget for fiscal year 16
  • Continuing appropriation going forward
  • Pension liability (unfunded)
  • MAP student scholarships

Taken together, these issues can have catastrophic consequences.  Is the University living above
its means?

  • Campuses are going through planning exercises for enrollment increases, but the number of degrees awarded in “strategic" areas may be a more suitable metric.  A comprehensive study is needed.
  • A significantly revised background check policy will be presented during the January cycle of Board of Trustees meetings. The revised policy is the product of the work of a faculty-driven working group; it removes significant ambiguities and clarifies that campus safety is the chief goal of the policy.
  • Strategic Planning Update: Members of the University of Illinois community were invited to attend town hall meetings during the month of November. Meetings were held during November 2015 on the Springfield, Urbana, and Chicago campuses, and will be held in Peoria on December 21st.  Please access the strategic planning website to view the video of the town hall meetings (  The Strategic Planning Steering Committee has been meeting on a monthly basis, and will now move into the iterative phase of drafting the plan with the support of the consulting firm AKA Strategy.
  • Proposed Compact with State of Illinois: The concept of a negotiated, multi-year accord between the University and the State of Illinois was discussed.  The Compact would provide the University a robust, stable appropriation as well as significant relief from burdensome regulations, while ensuring that the University fulfills its State-centric mission, especially regarding the education of Illinois students.  While the basic idea was deemed a good one, all complexities may not be yet have been accounted for.


August 25, 2015 meeting discussion points

Strategic Enrollment Management is an overwhelming concern in light of the public good mission of the University and decreasing trends in State funding. Educating more in-state students is also needed, especially underserved students and those in fields where the State’s industries have needs. A goal of 100,000 students was discussed, and was received with differing reactions.  Some key questions were addressed: 

  • What is the true cost of educating an undergraduate student?
  • Are we operating with sufficient efficiencies?
  • Illinois is bleeding potential students to other states, so how do we compete?
  • Do we have an understanding the full spectrum of reasons why students are not choosing Illinois?
  • How do we selectively invest in the programs that have demand? Likewise – how do we invest in priorities?
  • What kind of institution do we want to become?


March 31, 2015 meeting discussion points

  • It is important to clarify guiding principles that determine budget priorities. The President must set expectations, and build budget according to priorities.
  • University budget concerns have both immediate and medium term implications: strategic decision making with everything on the table seems to be prudent. Historically there have been items held harmless. Mission critical decisions designed not only to choose where to cut, but where to invest, must be undertaken. Processes must be undertaken for decision making, with no across the board cuts.
  • There are areas that simply cannot be cut. For example, payments of Health Insurance can’t be cut; Bond payments must be made; etc
  • Decisions must have perspective of the campus, but also perspective of the ‘whole’.
  • Setting strategic direction is important now. We are beyond the time for crisis management and temporary fixes. New President will be undertaking a strategic planning process.
  • Decision making process should include a role for faculty senate, who state a willingness to work with administration to develop plan. Transparency is important. Determining the cost of bureaucracy and attending to structural flaws are but two needed steps of process.
  • Perhaps an external evaluation of how the university can continue in light of budgets ahead?