Eastern could look at potential compact proposal

Cassie Buchman, News Editor


As the University of Illinois attempts to secure funding from legislators from the state for its own campuses, Eastern is potentially looking at and discussing the options for proposals of its own.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the University of Illinois system asking for a deal that would guarantee state funding for them for five years, including $662 million this upcoming year.

To get this funding, the University of Illinois schools would need to enroll a minimum number of in-state graduate students, increase financial aid and limit tuition increases.

Eastern President David Glassman said all of the public university presidents in Illinois have been aware of the compact the University of Illinois was preparing, starting from when it was first conceived.

As a result, public regional universities have been reviewing the merits of preparing similar performance-based compact proposals.

Glassman said if the University of Illinois’ proposal gets support from legislators, Eastern will prepare a Compact proposal as well, individually or together with other regional universities.

“The preparation of such a Compact proposal could be done in a very short period of time,” he said.

Glassman said the proposal would likely use the same general template as the University of Illinois’, though it would be adjusted for Eastern’s mission. The Compact proposal’s highest priority being to have a stable and predictable state level funding over a defined period of years.

The funding level requested would be at or near the level received in FY15.

A proposal made by Eastern would have lower performance metrics of retention rate and graduation rate that are consistent with other public regional universities.

“Differences in an EIU proposal may be related to procurement reform as it is not as great a concern for us as the U of I,” Glassman said.

Glassman said Eastern would “absolutely” be able to work with a performance-based funding system.

“Eastern has a strong record of performance outcomes compared to our peer institutions,” he said.

For now, the universities are watching how the General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner react to the university’s proposal.

“No one knows if the U of I Compact proposal will find support in Springfield, but what we all hope it will do is become a catalyst for increased dialogue in Springfield leading to the stabilization of predictable state funding for higher education,” he said.

Because the University of Illinois is the state’s largest university, Glassman does not find it unusual that they would attempt the proposal in response to the budget impasse.

In past years, he said, the General Assembly has treated all public universities similarly when looking at their annual increases and decreases in state funding percentage-wise.

“I do not believe they will deviate from this trend at the present time,” he said.

As a part of the funding agreement each of the University of Illinois’ campuses would have to admit a certain number of students. In a Chicago Tribune article, it stated that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign would have to admit at least 14,000 students.

While Glassman acknowledged that the University of Illinois and Eastern will compete for a greater overlap or prospective students, the “campuses, mission and university experiences” are different from each other.

“ It will likely cause us to invest more resources into marketing and recruiting students,” he said.

Even if the University of Illinois needs to admit a certain amount of students, Kelly Miller, interim director of admissions, said this does not necessarily pose a threat to Eastern’s admissions efforts as the schools serve different needs.

Though she admits there are a finite number of graduating seniors for universities to choose from, she said it is not an “us vs. them” situation with the University of Illinois.

“It’s not us or them, there’s room for all of us,” she said. “We all serve a different purpose and the state of Illinois needs all of us.”

Miller said while there are students who want to go to the flagship institution, others want a smaller campus and smaller class size.

“Our responsibility to prospective students is to sell experience here, not really make it a competition,” she said. “If the U of I opens their doors wider, we’re still providing different experience because of how they deliver it.”

Now, Eastern needs to tell its story in a way that will draw students to the university, Miller said.

This is being done across campus, with students going through training sessions to be able to speak with their old high schools over breaks to talk about their experience at Eastern.

Alumni are also writing letters and academic departments have reached out to Miller asking what they can do to help with the recruitment effort.

“Everyone’s been called to action to tell that story,” she said.



Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]