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Illinois House Appropriations Committee Remarks

As prepared for delivery by U of I President Tim Killeen

April 11, 2018


Good afternoon, Chairman Burke 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.
  • Michael Amiridis, our chancellor in Chicago.
  • Susan Koch, our chancellor here in Springfield.
  • And Robert Jones, our chancellor in Urbana-Champaign.

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

We are also proud of new, strategic plans we have developed to do even more … to lead the way in reinventing higher education to meet the needs of students, society and industry in the 21st century.

  • Our plans will build on the U of I System’s nearly $14 billion annual impact on the Illinois economy.
  • Our plans will create even more opportunities for Illinois students and expand a pipeline of talent that already produces more than 22,000 degrees annually.
  • That is enough to create a new city the size of Charleston, East Moline or Park Forest every single year, and adds to a statewide alumni base that is nearing 400,000 strong.
  • Our plans will increase the nearly $1 billion in research funding that our faculty already bring to Illinois annually … dollars that promise discovery to create new businesses and jobs.
  • And our plans propose 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 nearly 84,000 students across our three universities.

  • Growth included a 2 ½ percent increase among in-state undergraduates, and Illinois students comprised about 80 percent of undergraduates enrolled last fall.
  • In addition, we continue to see increases in enrollment of African-American and Latino undergraduates.  African-American undergraduate enrollment has risen more than 12 percent over the last five years, while Latino enrollment has grown by almost 59 percent.
  • Combined, African-American and Latino students comprised nearly 25 percent of last fall’s undergraduate enrollment across the system, and all three of our universities enroll more underrepresented minority students than their peer averages.But we can do more and will do more … through programs that target diversity in enrollment as well as in hiring of faculty and staff. Thanks to those ongoing efforts, Urbana-Champaign and Chicago each rank first among their peers in the percentage of underrepresented minorities among their full-time tenure system faculty.


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. 

  • Our efforts include reducing employees in system offices by nearly 250 FTEs since February 2015, 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 system-wide retention and graduation rates that are well above national averages.
  • 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, with a nearly $1 billion funding portfolio that 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.

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. 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

Finally, 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 magnify our time-tested formula to a massive, unprecedented scale.

  • DPI will be home to literally hundreds of world-class researchers … top faculty from across our system and new ones we plan to hire. They will work with thousands of students, with countless businesses large and small, and with entrepreneurs and investors in the heart of Chicago … America’s third largest city, a truly global city that helps drive the economic fortunes of our state and the Midwest.
  • And through IIN, the research center will connect with satellite hubs across Illinois, sharing its intellectual power with regional academic and business partners to help lift communities from Rockford to Carbondale.

With their tremendous scale and the U of I System’s research know-how as an anchor, 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 time today and for your service to our state.