U of I engineering could affect NIU

By Sean Noble

NIU might have missed a chance to block the expansion of the University of Illinoin’s off-campus engineering program into areas that could conflict with NIU’s own program.

Bob Wallhaus, deputy director for academic affairs at the Illinois Board of Higher Education, said U of I’s Chicago campus filed a notice of intent in December to extend its engineering program into three nearby community college districts.

He said the filing initiated a 60-day wait during which “other universities can seek additional information on the move or voice their concerns.

“This period is now elasped, so (the IBHE) will now review U of I’s application,” Wallhaus said.

NIU Provost Kendall Baker said NIU has “formally requested discussion” of U of I’s expansion proposal to determine whether the move would create conflict with NIU’s off-campus engineering classes. However, he said Friday he was unaware the 60-day inquiry period had ended.

Lynne Waldeland, associate provost for academic development and planning, said she was not aware of the existance of the 60-day wait.

She said the IBHE usually publishes the intention of a university to extend its programs, after which other universities may request synopses of the proposed move for more information. NIU requested the synopsis of U of I’s proposal, but Waldeland said, “I don’t believe we ever got the synopsis.”

The U of I engineering expansion could conflict with NIU’s interests in several respects, including the quality of U of I’s program.

But, Baker said, “We have not had a discussion or review of (U of I’s) intended program to be able to tell if there is a conflict.”

He said NIU’s three-year-old College of Engineering and Engineering Technology offers classes in four community college districts: Rock Valley, DuPage, Triton and Waubonsee.

Wallhaus said U of I offers a master’s of science degree in electrical engineering and computer science in six community college districts: Rock Valley, DuPage, Triton, William Rainey Harper, Morraine Valley and Oakton. The university also has a master’s of science degree program in mechanical engineering in all of those districts except Rock Valley.

Under U of I’s expansion proposal, Rock Valley would add the mechanical engineering degree, and the school’s other degree program would be extended to the Waubonsee, Elgin and College of Lake County districts.

Because the proposal is under review, May is the earlist it could be approved by the IBHE, Wallhaus said.

“The primary question now is whether there is need and demand for the program. And, do we need to commit additional resources for any expansion,” he said.

Paul Chung, dean of U of I’s College of Engineering, said he believes there is good reason for his college’s expansion.

“in the first place, our programs have believes there is good reason for his college’s expansion.

been successful-there are about 200 students in all of our (off-campus engineering) programs,” he said. “And area colleges have invited us to expand into their areas.”

Both Chung and Wallhaus said any program extension probably would involve internal reallociations of funds at U of I. And both men discounted speculation that the proposed U of I move would have a negative impact on NIU’s off-campus engineering efforts.

“I don’t think (the proposed U of I locations) are where NIU has concentrated its efforts,” Wallhaus said.