IBHE approves money

By Vickie Snow

NIU might get $500,000 for a graduate-level center in Rockford by the end of October if all goes as planned.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education approved the money last week, a signal that Gov. James Thompson was waiting for before deciding to release the money.

But word has it he wants the site to be chosen first, said NIU President John La Tourette.

A community advisory committee, made up of representatives from Rockford, Freeport and Belvidere, is being formed to decide on a site, La Tourette said.

At the IBHE meeting, University of Illinois President Stanley Ikenberry said he hopes NIU will build its center on the grounds of U of I’s campus to make it “bigger and better.”

La Tourette said the committee will look at the possibility, but has its own criteria, such as accessibility to students and faculty.

A downtown site favored by Rockford Mayor Charles Box also is being looked into, he said.

In addition to waiting for the $500,000 in planning funds, NIU will seek $3 million in construction costs and about $400,000 for additional faculty and programs, he said.

NIU currently offers courses in the Rock Valley College District to about 1,500 students, according to an IBHE report. Additionally, La Tourette said 95 percent of the courses are taught by regular full-time faculty.

The NIU Rockford Center would ultimately serve an estimated 2,800 students.

The center will not take away from NIU students, courses or faculty, La Tourette said.

The $400,000 would provide for hiring more faculty who would teach at NIU and the center, he said.

By getting the money before the center opens, faculty can begin teaching at NIU before part of their time will be devoted to Rockford, he said.

All of this money will come from state funds and tuition, La Tourette said.

Courses planned for the center are in the areas of computer science, corporate communication, graduate engineering and technology, graduate nursing, public administration and allied health. Most of the programs will be at the graduate level, but some undergraduate courses will be offered.

The $400,000 request for additional funding will go before the Board of Regents’ for approval next week in Bloomington. The request then will be handed over to the IBHE Oct.2 at its meeting in Oglesby.

However, getting money is a long process. The IBHE will give its final say in January. “It is only a recommendation, a stage in the process” of seeking the legislature’s approval, said Anne Kaplan, executive assistant to La Tourette.