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Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee Remarks

As prepared for delivery by U of I President Tim Killeen

April 5, 2018


Good morning, Chairman Manar and members of the committee. Thank you for inviting me to join you today, and for your service to the people of Illinois. 

Let me begin with some introductions. Here with me are:

  • Barbara Wilson, executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs for the University of Illinois System.
  • Michael Amiridis, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
  • Susan Koch, our chancellor here in Springfield.
  • And Robert Jones, our chancellor in Urbana-Champaign.

We are proud to be part of a dedicated team that has helped make the University of Illinois System a global leader in education and innovation, and a key engine of progress for our state.

And we are proud of our new, strategic plans to do even more … to lead the way in reinventing higher education to meet the fast-changing needs of students, society and industry in the 21st century.

  • We have plans that will build on the U of I System’s nearly $14 billion annual impact on the Illinois economy.
  • We have plans to expand a pipeline talent that already produces more than 22,000 degrees every year … enough to create a new city the size of Charleston, East Moline or Park Forest, and adding to a statewide alumni base that is nearing 400,000 strong.
  • We have plans to grow the nearly $1 billion in research funding that our faculty already bring to Illinois annually … dollars that would go elsewhere if not for their talents, and investments that promise discovery that creates new businesses and jobs.
  • And we have plans for a groundbreaking new financial partnership with the state to support our operations while guaranteeing returns on your investment.

Before I get to our plans for the future, I would like to briefly touch on just a few recent successes that show we’re already well on our way.


Enrollment grew to a record high for the fifth straight year last fall … to more than 83,000 students across our three universities.

  • Growth included a nearly 2 ½ percent increase among in-state undergraduates, and Illinois students comprised about 80 percent of undergraduates enrolled last fall.
  • In addition, enrollment of African-American and Latino undergraduates increased for the sixth straight year and comprised nearly 25 percent of last fall’s undergraduate enrollment across the system.


Enrollment growth was supported by an in-state tuition freeze that will extend to a fourth consecutive year next fall … the longest in more than four decades, since the 1970s.

  • System-wide enrollment has increased nearly 7 percent since in-state tuition last increased in the fall of 2014.  That includes an increase of more than 2,200 Illinois students … helping slow a growing outmigration to colleges and universities in other states, where studies show most will stay to use their talents after they graduate.

Controlling costs

We also continue to strategically examine our operations to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

  • We have reduced overall non-instructional staffing by 260 FTE since February 2015.
  • That includes about 248 fewer employees in system offices, which has resulted in a recurring annual payroll savings of $6 million.

Student success

Savings and efficiencies are channeled toward academic and support programs that pave the way to success for our graduates.

  • Our programs keep students in school … with a system-wide freshman retention rate of 89 percent, well above the national average of 81 percent.
  • They graduate students on time … with a six-year graduation rate of 76 percent, compared to the 60 percent national average.
  • Our high graduation rates, coupled with institutional financial aid that has increased to nearly $220 million annually over the last decade, mean that our graduates also leave with less debt than national and state averages.


The U of I System is more than just the state’s largest educator, serving half of all students enrolled in public higher education in Illinois. It is also is a leader in research discovery, and its nearly $1 billion funding portfolio ranks in the top tier among university systems across the U.S.

  • Our world-class faculty and long history of pioneering innovation have made the U of I System a place where the nation turns to solve its most vexing challenges.
  • In fact, we are ranked 25th in Reuter’s latest rankings of the world’s most innovative universities … the institutions doing the most to advance science, pioneer new technologies and create new markets and industries.
  • As examples, Urbana-Champaign recently received one of its largest grants ever when it was chosen to lead 17 partner institutions in a $115 million bioenergy project that seeks to develop new fuel sources generated from plants.
  • And in Chicago, a medical school that is among our nation’s largest has earned a nearly $18 million federal grant to improve healthcare nationwide by speeding up the process of getting new discoveries out of research labs and into the treatment of patients.

Strategic plans

But, as I mentioned earlier, our focus is on the future, not the past.

Enrollment growth

We are committed to continue enrollment growth, with a plan to top 93,000 students by 2021 … changing the trajectory of even more young lives and expanding the pipeline of extraordinary talent that we produce. Early signs show that this coming fall will continue our push toward the goal.

  • First-time freshman applications and admits are up over 6 percent – both record highs.
  • And we have admitted over 7 percent more Illinois residents.


We also are leading the way to secure our financial future … proposing a new partnership with the state that would provide the funding and certainty to maintain our excellence.

  • The innovative solution picked up support last month when Northern Illinois University signed onto our proposed Investment, Performance, and Accountability Commitment, or IPAC.\
  • We hope that IPAC ultimately becomes the model for public higher education across Illinois … providing predictable state funding in exchange for measureable performance standards that serve students and the needs of the state.

New research initiatives

And we have plans to expand our power as an engine of progress and economic growth, through two research initiatives announced last fall. The Discovery Partners Institute and Illinois Innovation Network will deliver a high-powered jolt to the innovation infrastructure that is now so crucial to create new products, new businesses and new jobs.They will bring together the same critical ingredients that already make the U of I System a powerhouse of discovery. They will connect the world’s very best research faculty with the most pressing real-world problems of businesses and society … with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists … and with the students who will be the researchers of entrepreneurs of tomorrow. But they will magnify our time-tested formula for innovation to a massive, unprecedented scale. 

  • DPI will be home to literally hundreds of world-class researchers … top faculty from across our system, new ones we plan to hire, and researchers from prestigious academic partners that already include the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. They will work with thousands of students, with countless businesses large and small, and with entrepreneurs and investors in the heart of America’s third largest city … a truly global city that helps drive the economic fortunes of our state, the Midwest and the nation.
  • And through IIN, the research center will connect with satellite hubs throughout Illinois, sharing its intellectual power with regional academic and business partners to help lift communities from Rockford to Carbondale. One of those hubs is already in the works here in Springfield, and I am grateful to Chairman Manar for his support and leadership.

With their tremendous scale and the U of I System’s research know-how as an anchor, DPI and IIN can make Illinois the new center of gravity for economic growth.They can foster pioneering discovery that will not just rival Silicon Valley, but leapfrog it.

In closing

Doing more has been ingrained in the U of I System’s DNA since its land-grant founding 150 years ago. The state has been a critical partner from the very beginning, and we ask that you support us again by approving the timely, full-year funding that will help lift us to our latest goals.Thank you again for your service to our state.