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Pillar IV:  Tomorrow's University Today

The traditional models of public higher education are being challenged as never before. State funding has become more uncertain at just the time that more is being expected of public universities. The higher education marketplace has become more competitive and more global. Policy makers and public officials as well as students and families are raising serious and appropriate questions about the escalating cost of college, unacceptable levels of student debt, the readiness of graduates to enter a rapidly changing workplace, and the management practices employed at every level of the academic enterprise. It is our duty as the University of Illinois System to offer the best possible return on investment for all our stakeholders and to ensure that we are efficient, competitive, and constantly improving. In doing this, we must aggressively promote our reputation as a leading global brand in higher education and a preeminent destination for the world’s best students and scholars.

1. Ensure affordability, access, and completion, offering degrees that increase in value

We will use our public funding wisely and strategically to ensure that students in the System receive a first-class education at a reasonable cost.

  • Develop a System-wide strategy for affordability and access, with regular assessment and benchmarking efforts to continually improve the business model; integrate this strategy into an advocacy plan to describe progress aimed at Illinois leaders; lead a statewide discussion on how to best provide accessible, affordable publichigher education throughout Illinois.
  • Conduct a comprehensive analysis of retention and completion across the System and convene enrollment and student development leaders to consider the results, share successful approaches fo enhancing student success, and devise new strategies.
  • Expand and promote opportunities for lifelong and “life-wide” learning.

2. Develop a University-state compact

We will develop and propose a compact to the state—The University of Illinois System 2021 Initiative—a multiyear agreement that would provide predictable state funding for the System and avert the year to year uncertainty that hinders our ability to plan ahead.

  • The compact would call on the state to ease unnecessary regulatory requirements—such as complex procurement guidelines—that often impede efficiency and discourage smart risk-taking.
  • In exchange, the System would pledge to meet tangible objectives that serve the state’s needs in critical, measureable areas, including enrollment, graduation rates, and affordability.

3. Create a technology platform that touches every function of the modern university environment

Our System-wide use of technology should touch every function of the modern university environment—enhancing communication, reducing unnecessary effort, improving responsiveness and service, and strengthening connections with other organizations, institutions, agencies, businesses, and our alumni network across the state and around the world.

  • Leverage the System’s expertise in online education to increase access to higher education and degree completion for Illinois residents.
  • Develop a System-wide strength in data analytics that draws on the numerous efforts underway across our universities, informs planning, and serves as a comprehensive repository of reliable data that is easily accessible by all of our universities, regional campuses, and Illinois Extension sites.
  • Develop online tools, similar to those used for degree auditing, that provide automated progress tracking of career preparation, academic and personal advisement, and preparation for graduate study.

4. Become a model of environmental sustainability

We will incorporate practices that reduce our carbon footprint and  build a System-wide culture of environmental care, supporting the efforts of our universities and campuses to achieve carbon neutrality over the next three to four decades. To do this, our universities and regional campuses will actively seek:

  • Climate neutrality by increasing building energy efficiency, achieving LEED certification for construction and renovations, enhancing the efficiency of campus fleets and shuttle buses, and becoming more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
  • Zero waste by increasing waste diversion rates, reducing bottled water use, and increasing the number of green-certified campus events.
  • Net zero water use by managing and reducing storm water runoff within parking lots and structures and reducing water use through more efficient technology and practices.
  • Campus biodiversity by promoting the use of local produce, increasing tree canopy size and the diversity of plants on campus, and using sustainable landscaping practices.

5. Ensure our long-term financial sustainability

We believe that the System has offered a consistently remarkable return on public investment in terms of the innovations we have produced,the talent pool we have created, and the impact we have made on the quality of life for all Illinoisans. And we are ready to lead the way in helping Illinois grow its way back to prosperity. But we can’t wait for the arrival of “better times” to get started—there will always be obstacles and challenges, and a lesser vision than that expressed here does none of our stakeholders a service. As we continue to make the strongest case possible for public support, we remain determined to move this plan forward and ensure that the University of Illinois System overall has a sustainable long term financial foundation.

  • Significantly increase private support from alumni, other individuals, foundations, and corporations by attracting major funding from donors who are excited by the ideas and aspirations delineated in this Strategic Framework.
  • Increase and diversify our funding streams, including new income from sponsored research, tech transfer, alternative course delivery methods, revision to the academic calendar, and other steps.
  • Improve our operational efficiency, increase our administrative productivity, improve utilization of our physical plant, and identify other means to trim our operating expenses while enhancing the quality of our teaching, research, and service.