IBHE approves DuPage center

By Vickie Snow

CHARLESTON—The Illinois Board of Higher Education gave the proposed DuPage multi-university a thumbs-up Tuesday, despite pleas by opponents believing the facility would duplicate classes.

The IBHE passed three resolutions to speed up planning of the $30 million Center for Advanced Education and Research, which will offer research opportunities and graduate-level degrees primarily in high-tech fields such as engineering and computer science.

The center will involve NIU, the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana and Chicago, Northwestern University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Representatives from universities and the business community urged the IBHE to stall its approval until more studies are done to determine what educational programs are needed.

Edwin Stueben, vice president of IIT West in Glen Ellyn, is worried the center might duplicate IIT’s courses and said that IIT’s $15 million investment in DuPage “would be seriously undermined by this plan.”

However, NIU President John La Tourette said “we’re not going to get in each other’s way.”

He said turf issues need to be put aside. “If we’re going to serve the business and industry heartland and the people of Illinois, we need to move ahead with the concept of the multi-university.”

“NIU’s off-campus programs trace back to the ‘30s … before it was fashionable” to have branch services, La Tourette said.

About 3,000 students take NIU courses in the suburbs, he said.

U of I President Stanley Ikenberry also said he has no intention of duplicating IIT’s courses.

“We should keep Illinois on the forefront of science and technology,” Ikenberry said.

He said that although many universities offer courses in the suburbs, a less segmented presence is needed. “There is no major presence of a public or private research facility in DuPage,” he said.

IBHE Executive Director Richard Wagner said the center is “a critical fund that we need to move forward on. It would enable us to draw on the strengths of many institutions.”

However, Stueben said past studies do not indicate the need for a multi-university.

Carl Ball of the Corridor Partnership for Excellence in Education agreed more educational facilities are needed in DuPage, but said area businesses want a needs assessment by outside professionals first.

“The business and industry community, the biggest single customer of the system, should have more input before bricks and mortar fly,” Ball said.

The resolutions passed by the IBHE include:

A mission “to develop and implement instructional, research and public service programs at the graduate level in engineering and the physical and life sciences.”

Establishment of a Council for Vice Presidents and an Industrial Advisory Board to ensure equal and active participation of the universities and laboratories, with operational responsibility falling on the U of I’s shoulders.

Continued discussions between university and Fermi Lab representatives and the United States Department of Energy to determine the feasability of locating the center near Fermi Lab.