Covering the Land of Lincoln

UI trustees approve tuition hike, contract extension for Bielema | University-illinois

To subscribe, click here.

Want to purchase today’s print edition? Here’s a map of single-copy locations.

Sign up for our daily newsletter here

CHICAGO — Ahead of myriad votes on new contracts and appointments, student tuition and fee increases, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees got a look at something a tad more pleasant: the Japan House’s upcoming upgrade.

The beloved cultural facility, part of the UI’s College of Fine and Applied Arts, will more than double in size next year, thanks to a 5,200-square-foot addition designed with accessibility in mind.

Mark Cheng of MDC Architects shared the latest on the nearly $4 million project with trustees in a committee meeting this week.

Expected by fall 2024, the Ogura-Sato annex will branch off the Japan House’s southwest corner, extending closer to Lincoln Avenue. It will contain a small conference room, a transition space (genkan) for the removal of shoes and an accessible tea room, kitchen, offices and restrooms.

“It’s a big undertaking; we’re super excited to get it to this point,” Japan House Director Jennifer Gunji-Ballsrud told The News-Gazette. “The idea of ​​a tea ceremony is joining people together, not having hierarchies and not eliminating access — if I’m in a wheelchair and I can’t get into the actual tea room or the gardens, it’s extremely frustrating.

“It was my dream to make it inclusive and accessible.”

Chancellor Robert Jones said it’s hard to argue against the Japan House as the “anchor facility” of the UI Arboretum, just south of Florida Avenue.

“We have a big long-term vision for really advancing the arboretum, and from where we sit as a campus leadership, this is the first installation (to) make it one of the world-class arboretums,” Jones said.

The next frontier at the arboretum: the Doris Kelly Christopher Illinois Extension Center, a new home for the UI’s outreach arm expected to arrive in 2025 after Christopher’s $45 million gift to the school in 2021.

Bielema’s extension

One of the hot-button items on Thursday’s trustees agenda: a big contract extension for Illinois head football coach Bret Bielema.

“There are some other tangible benefits as well, with what we saw with ticket sales and other kinds of revenue generated from the performance we saw this past season,” Jones said.

The contract is, on its face, a two-year extension to Bielema’s previous six-year deal, now set to expire in 2029. His salary jumps from $4.2 million to $6 million, with $150,000 annual raises and other bonuses.

For every season the Illini football program generates six wins or more with Bielema at the helm, his contract will extend another year, with a maximum extension to 2033. In those one-year contract extensions, Bielema’s compensation will rise by $150,000 only if the team finishes with a winning season.

“We thought it was critically important to structure this contract as self-perpetuating as we can so we can avoid the historical practice of coming back to you each and every year,” Jones said.

The UI and Bielema agreed to the terms in mid-December 2022.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight some of the on-field successes under Bielema’s leadership,” Jones said. “The coach has really engineered and orchestrated one of the most impressive and aggressive turnarounds in college football history, with Illinois gathering national attention throughout the season.

“You had to be under a rock someplace if you didn’t realize the great attention the winning record he orchestrated has brought to bear on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.”

Rising fees, Tuition

Incoming students’ tuition and housing costs at the UI’s Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses will be bumped up next semester for the second time in as many years.

Current students have their tuition frozen for all four years under Illinois law, but the per-semester cost for in-state undergraduates will rise about 1.9 percent across the board, and more for nonresident students.

“While our commitment to affordability remains steadfast, this year a high level of inflation has also shaped our recommendations,” said Nicholas Jones, UI System executive vice president and VP for academic affairs. “We are facing inflationary pressures, and all three universities have incurred significant costs to keep their campuses safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Nicholas Jones pointed to recent Consumer Price Index increases to explain the now-approved tuition. The CPI has risen, on average, 4.1 percent annually for the last four years, including 7.1 percent in the last 12 months.

The cost of an engineering degree at Urbana-Champaign, tied with business as the costliest, will increase from $8,830 to $8,988 per semester for in-state students starting in the fall.

Incoming out-of-state students will pay about 2.2 to 2.5 percent more per year than their current UI undergraduate counterparts, with an out-of-state student’s engineering degree going from $19,066 to $19,517 per semester.

The going rate for most graduate degrees at UIUC will also increase in the fall, from 1.6 percent to 2.5 percent depending on the program of study.

This will be the third increase in tuition for in-state students in the last nine years. Tuition was frozen from 2015 to 2019.

“This is a puzzle for a public university. We have revenues and we have expenses; we have employees we all want to pay more every year,” board chair Don Edwards said.

“Our sources of revenue are only tuition and state aid for paying most of these salaries, and one of those two has to go up in order for us to pay more. It’s a balance between raising tuition and trying to pay as much as we can back to students.”

About 37 percent of undergraduates systemwide pay no tuition after financial aid.

Student fees will increase for all three campuses, including Springfield, many of them approved or requested by student bodies in annual votes. UIUC student fees will go up by $52, to $3,292 per academic year.

The breakdown for Urbana’s 2023-’24 fees:

  • $730 (+$14): academic facility maintenance assessment.
  • $680 (+$16): service fee.
  • $610 (+$10): general fee.
  • $502 (+$6): health fee.
  • $488: library/IT assessment.
  • $146 (+$12): student-initiated fees.
  • $136 (-$6): transportation/Safe Ride fee.

Room and board rates will jump by 5 percent next year at the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses. The cost to live in a standard double room at a UIUC dorm will rise from $11,598 to $12,178 per year in fall 2023.

Appointments and AI

Edwards was unanimously re-elected chair for his fifth year. Edwards, a former Illini golfer, is CEO of Flexpoint Ford, a private equity firm in Chicago.

“I appreciate that the board’s role is not only to support the university but also to challenge our administration to constantly push to be the best possible system that we can be for the people of Illinois,” Edwards said.

Jeffrey Stein, former associate director of research at the Prairie Research Institute, was named secretary of the board Thursday. He’ll succeed Greg Knott, who retires May 1 after 35 years in the UI System.

In admissions news, the board voted to make standardized tests optional for out-of-state and international applicants to the UI indefinitely. State law has required the provision for in-state students since 2021, but left it up to schools for nonresidents.

“Our current findings strongly suggest that the test optional policy has not had a negative impact on our students’ academic progress or retention,” Nicholas Jones said at Wednesday’s committee meeting.

About half of UI applicants currently submit test scores.

The conversation around the item in committee led to an exchange around the artificial-intelligence-powered ChatGPT, a chatbot released by OpenAI in November 2022, which generates remarkably humanlike responses to a variety of prompts.

Some users have asked the bot to write essays for them for credit.

“At the next board meeting, I’d like to get a presentation or a discussion of obviously ChatGPT but technology in general, as it relates to not necessarily to essays but actual performance in school,” Edwards said. “Obviously, ‘cheating’ in any form is unfair to students who aren’t cheating, but what students aren’t old enough or wise enough to know is it’s cheating them. They’re getting a diploma that isn’t going to work for them when they get in the workforce because they can’t write.”

“We hear you and we’ll comply,” President Tim Killeen said, as trustees and administrators in the room shared a laugh.

Comments are closed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More