DuPage County university debated

By Vickie Snow

LISLE—Two state university officials debated the next steps to be taken for a DuPage County multi-university Wednesday.

Edwin Stueben, Illinois Institute of Technology West vice president, and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Irving Miller were asked by DuPage-area business leaders to tell other local business people about the argument surrounding the institution.

Stueben criticized how Miller, director of the center’s planning efforts, wants to build an all-purpose facility before decisions on course offerings have been made.

“It’s an expensive, inefficient way of going about things” that would inevitably result in duplication of courses, Stueben said.

IIT fears the multi-university will duplicate classes already offered at its Chicago and Glen Ellyn campuses, but Miller said the U of I “will work with IIT to prevent duplication and competition.”

Stueben suggests that area businesses participate in a needs assessment to determine what is not being offered to serve area high-tech professionals.

“Then the academic and business worlds can come together” to decide what programs and facilities would best serve the community, he said.

Many studies have attempted to determine the need of high-tech education in the DuPage area, but they “don’t give concrete answers,” Miller said. He said he is committed to detailed program assessments once the programs are proposed.

Stueben said after meeting with Stanley Ikenberry, U of I at Urbana/Champaign president, the Illinois Board of Higher Education and others earlier this week, an assessment should come before site selection and construction.

The studies were “flawed because they haven’t involved part of the business and industry worlds, the group that is supposed to be the beneficiary of the project,” Stueben said.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Batavia, invited the multi-university to house itself on the federally-owned land, allowing up to 200,000 square feet, Miller said.

The space will be at no cost to the state if Fermilab is the final choice, but about six other sites also are being considered, he said.

Engineering contractors will evaluate the sites before bidding, but no site will be perfect. “Wherever we build it, someone will be inconvenienced,” Miller said.

Other things that must be resolved before the center appears are IIT’s opposition, the willingness of the state to provide continuing support and mixed signals from DuPage County about the desire for such an institution, he said.

In addition to the $30 million requested for construction, the center would require between $60 and 70 million annually to operate, Stueben said.