IBHE vote holds key to center’s future

By Vickie Snow

An NIU facility for off-campus graduate programming in Rockford might be established if a staff recommendation to go ahead with plans is approved Wednesday.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education’s vote, to be cast at its meeting at Decatur’s Millikin University, holds the key to the center’s future.

Gov. James Thompson is waiting for the IBHE’s approval of the Rockford Center before he decides to release the allocated $500,000.

But even if the money is freed, plans could be stalled for another year or more.

Thompson has until June 30, 1991 to release the money, said Ken Beasley, assistant to NIU President John La Tourette. If Thompson does not, the money would be reappropriated on the fiscal year 1992 budget, he said.

On the other hand, if the IBHE doesn’t approve the project, NIU “would continue in its present mode of serving Rockford,” which is about 30 miles from DeKalb, Beasley said.

NIU has been offering courses at various Rockford locations for more than 30 years through the NIU College of Continuing Education, Beasley said.

The IBHE report states that NIU offers more than half the off-campus programs available in the Rock Valley College district. But, at the July IBHE meeting, Board of Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves said the center is not intended as an NIU branch campus.

“We are talking about a facility in which to offer off-campus programming,” he said.

For example, a place to offer engineering courses with sufficient equipment does not exist, Beasley said. The Rockford Center also would allow NIU to be involved with economic development and research and community service, he said.

The report states the Rockford Center would “meet the needs of place-bound, part-time students…who are interested in upper-division and graduate programs that are not offered by local institutions.”

Graduate-level courses in computer science, corporate communication, engineering and technology, nursing, public administration and allied health are planned for the center.

The Rockford Center has been on hold for more than a year because of a legislative battle over money.

The project’s estimated cost would fall at $6,775,000, with state money picking up $6 million of the bill, the report states.

In late 1989, the General Assembly overrode Thompson’s veto of the $500,000. However, he agreed to release the money last March, but only after the IBHE reviews the plans.