Rockford site search narrows

By Vickie Snow

NIU officials are still checking possible locations for a Rockford Educational Center although they wanted to have the site pinpointed three weeks ago.

Gov. James Thompson will not give NIU the $500,000 for designing and planning the center until the site is selected.

University officials expect to have the list of seven sites trimmed by Dec. 4, when the Illinois Board of Higher Education meets in Chicago.

The IBHE “needs to know at the very least if we’re building a building or remodeling a building,” said Anne Kaplan, executive assistant to NIU President John La Tourette.

Some of the sites include existing buildings that could be modified for NIU’s needs. NIU plans to offer mostly graduate-level courses at the center, which should serve about 2,800 students.

Kaplan, a member of the center’s university site selection advisory committee, said NIU “needs to give the IBHE the idea that the project is possible and that we haven’t run into any unsurmountable hurdles.”

The committee met with a Rockford community group, made up of area business and legislative leaders, and “discussed the importance of finding a site where the university can serve as wide a region as possible and also offer both credit and Continuing Professional Education programming.”

The list of sites was in La Tourette’s hands during Thanksgiving break, she said.

After receiving approval to go ahead with the project from the IBHE and the Board of Regents early this semester, NIU officials sought requests for sites and received 16 possibilities in October.

The two groups cut the list by visiting the sites and evaluating them for accessibility, expandability and cost.

The Regents govern NIU, Illinois State University in Normal and Sangamon State University in Springfield.