Stimulus package offers funding opportunities
By Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor 217-244-1072 email@example.com
The multibillion-dollar federal economic stimulus package recently signed by President Barack Obama contains significant funding for agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and Provost Linda Katehi urged researchers at the Urbana campus to consider projects that they could propose.
Katehi discussed the federal stimulus package in the context of the UI’s budget during a meeting of the Urbana-Champaign Senate on Feb. 23.
“These are all opportunities for us,” Katehi said about the provisions of the stimulus package, which contained $10.4 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $3 billion for the National Science Foundation and $140 million for the states’ geological surveys. “I can see every single college benefiting out of this.”
Faced with a projected state budget deficit of $9 billion, the campus likely can expect a 10 percent reduction in its General Revenue funds, Katehi said. All units were told to set aside 1.5 percent of their funds this fiscal year, and the campus is planning for as much as a 10 percent cash rescission, with the possibility looming that any Fiscal Year 2009 rescission will become a permanent budgetary reduction next fiscal year, which starts July 1. The Legislature then will have until the end of May to agree on a spending plan for FY10.
The UI won’t know what may lie ahead until Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn unveils his fiscal year 2010 budget proposal on March 18.
Salaries, which now account for 80 percent of the campus’s costs, are becoming a focus for cost containment, and only critical hires are being approved. The Urbana campus has 11,627 full-time equivalent employees, 3,015 of whom are faculty members, Katehi said. During the past eight or nine years, the numbers of students and faculty members have grown at equivalent rates of about 13 percent.
“We have grown in people, but we grew without having a good plan in front of us,” Katehi said. “We grew because we decided to make hires on the basis of quality of faculty members available instead of on the need we had internally. … The growth as it was done across the board has forced us to really use all of the flexibility that we had in our budget and tie all of our funds into salaries.”
In the future, the campus will need to be strategic about its hiring and let attrition whittle down salary expenditures so that those funds can be directed to educational programs instead, Katehi said.
Sen. George Francis, mathematics, urged campus administrators to consider the “rational calendar.”
“We’ve done the numbers,” Francis said. “If we go to a 60-minute class with a 15-minute interval between classes, we would save two weeks per semester. That’s two weeks’ less energy use, two weeks’ fewer services and two weeks more for doing research.”
Nicholas Burbules, chair of the Senate Executive Committee read a statement updating the senate on issues pertaining to Global Campus and the decision to pursue separate accreditation. While supportive of the mission to expand access to qualified students, the SEC raised several concerns, which the University Senates Conference addressed with President B. Joseph White on Feb. 25.
In other business, the senate approved numerous revisions to the core curriculum for the professional veterinary medicine program. The modifications, which will be phased in beginning with the first-year class entering in the fall, increased clinical experiences during all four years, and modernized the curriculum in accordance with the 2006 accreditation report by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education.
Abbas Aminmansour, chair of the Senate Educational Policy Committee, discussed the proposal, which grouped several three- and four-credit courses together to create eight-week courses bearing nine to 10 1/2 credit hours.
“Very little of what we do fits into 15 lecture hours per semester,” said Jonathan Foreman, associate dean for academics and student affairs in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “We’re lumping smaller courses into a larger-course format to allow more flexibility to redistribute hours as we think is appropriate, as we progress and as medicine changes, and as all of the species that we do change.”
Foreman said that the doctors of veterinary medicine students take, on average, 19 1/2 credits per semester, and that most courses are team-taught, with the exception of a few electives.
Sen. Alfred Hubler, physics, expressed concern that creating large-credit courses would preclude students from taking courses in other departments.
Foreman responded that vet med has a mechanism in place that enables students from other colleges to take portions of courses for a limited number of credits.
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