NIU’s Rockford center debated

By Vickie Snow

As NIU plans to build a center in Rockford, the University of Illinois will pursue a piece of the action.

At the Sept. 5 meeting of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, U of I President Stanley Ikenberry said NIU did not keep in touch with them on the plans for courses.

However, Board of Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves said he is surprised Ikenberry raised the issue.

“It could’ve been inferred that NIU doesn’t want to cooperate with U of I,” Groves said. “But (NIU President) John La Tourette made assurances to U of I officials that there will be cooperation. NIU is anxious to cooperate and has indicated so all along.”

Both universities have investments in the Rockford area and want to avoid clashing. Ikenberry said he wants to be sure NIU won’t offer duplicate courses.

At the IBHE meeting Ikenberry said NIU plans to offer a nursing program, while U of I also is planning one for Rockford. La Tourette assured him the courses would not be competitive.

“U of I proposed a masters program in nursing that is quite different from any masters program we’d offer,” he said.

It makes more sense for NIU to increase its services in Rockford because it is closer to Rockford than U of I, and has more resources than U of I does for such expansion, La Tourette said.

“I hope U of I understands they don’t have the kind of base we do” for serving Rockford, La Tourette said. NIU has more faculty resources, and because of its proximity will spend less time and money on traveling, he said.

NIU is about 30 miles from Rockford, while U of I at Champaign is 190 miles and U of I at Chicago is about 90 miles away from Rockford.

NIU is in the process of choosing a site for its Rockford center, and U of I is pushing for NIU to put the building at its Rockford campus.

Ikenberry said by putting the building on its campus, NIU would benefit from existing facilities like a library and parking areas.

But its campus is “highly specialized in medicine and health,” and NIU’s building might require a different atmosphere, La Tourette said.

The site will be considered, but there are about eight other possibilities, La Tourette said. NIU still is waiting for Gov. James Thompson to release $500,000 in site-search money.