IBHE approves plan for regional centers

By Eric Krol

Despite protest by Board of Regents officials, the state’s higher education governing board approved a method of coordinating education delivery.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education gave the nod to start a system of regional consortia at last week’s meeting. The centers will be located in key geographic points in the state to coordinate public and private school efforts at delivering higher education.

The plan was not without its critics, however. Regents Chairman Brewster Parker said he is not convinced there is a need for coordination.

“The BOR regards it unnecessary and unwise to blanket the state with the project,” Parker said. It will lead to another layer of bureaucracy and red-tape, he added.

The IBHE oversees all state universities while the Regents govern NIU, Illinois State University at Normal and Sangamon State University at Springfield.

In the past, NIU President John La Tourette, Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves and ISU President Thomas Wallace all have expressed concern about saddling universities with the regional centers.

IBHE member Rey Brune, who chaired the committee which drafted the plan, said even if the board rejected the proposal, the state wouldn’t give higher education more money. “It’s not a case of this or that,” Brune said.

IBHE Chairman Arthur Quern said the board only was approving a policy statement. Quern, who has been calling for prioritization in higher education, said the IBHE must not stop moving forward even as it examined itself.

IBHE member Robert English asked whether a system of regional centers would have helped to avoid last year’s “turf wars.”

Brune said there haven’t been that many but added, “I can’t promise we’ll never have arguments” about providing instruction.

NIU and Roosevelt University clashed last year on the Hoffman Estates consolidation project. NIU’s center, which will offer mostly graduate-level business programs, is in close proximity to Roosevelt’s course offering in Arlington Heights.

The Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana had clashed in the past about courses in the western suburbs as well.

The recommendation came from the IBHE Committee on Underserved Areas, which had met throughout the past year to address the growing need of delivering higher education to rural and unserved areas.