Stewarding Excellence @ Illinois begins ‘next step’
Campus administrators have responded to recommendations submitted by five project review teams in the Stewarding Excellence @ Illinois campus initiative – Aviation, Campus Programs Supporting Teaching, the Graduate College, Information Technology at Illinois, and Refocusing Scholarships.
Letters from Robert Easter, interim chancellor, and Richard Wheeler, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, outlining the next steps to be taken for each project and implementation timelines are available online.
UI officials say Stewarding Excellence is about ensuring that the university remains a pre-eminent research institution and that the level of excellence that the university is known for is sustained. The initiative is not simply about streamlining operations or cutting funding. There is no specific savings goal for the program.
“The goal is to help position the institution for success in the years to come,” said Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs. “It isn’t simply about trying to save money,”
“Stewarding Excellence is an example where many thoughts and ideas were generated to improve what we do at Illinois – now is the time to choose those actions which will position Illinois better to respond to future challenges and opportunities,” Easter said.
“All the activities and programs we have are good and important; however, we can’t continue to do everything,” Easter said. “We must shrink our footprint by making strategic choices about how we will spend our limited resources to ensure that Illinois will remain a premier public institution.
“I have been encouraged and heartened by the responses received during the serious review of many different areas on campus because they speak volumes about people really caring about the future of Illinois. In a time of great fiscal strain we have imagined how we can keep Illinois strong while going about our business in new ways.”
The team reviewing the Institute of Aviation recommended that all of the institute’s academic curricula be discontinued or transferred to other academic units. The campus allocates $875,000 in general revenue funds to support the institute’s degree and non-degree programs. Removing the human factors degrees and the professional pilot curriculum would eliminate administrative functions and costs.
The human factors bachelor’s program is a four-year curriculum on safety and accident prevention related to flight. The professional pilot curriculum is a two-year program that does not lead to a degree.
According to the report, “The cost savings associated with the proposed changes to the academic curricula will depend upon whether the degree programs are moved to another unit on campus or eliminated. Savings also will accrue to the campus because the continuation of a flight certification program will require that it be self-supporting within an appropriate time frame.”
The university will save between $500,000 and $750,000 by discontinuing the Institute of Aviation degree programs and the Professional Pilot Program, Kaler said.
The Senate Committee on Educational Policy and campus senate would have to agree to the proposed changes.
The team recommended that unless the College of Engineering or the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences commits to transferring human factors to either of them, the degree program will be discontinued. Tenure-track faculty members already have moved to other colleges within the UI.
Easter and Wheeler have asked that Illinois Business Consulting, a student-run consulting group in the College of Business, investigate business models for continuing pilot training and flight certification, and, if appropriate, research possible community partnerships for doing so. The IBC’s report is expected to be complete at the end of the fall semester and a decision regarding non-degree flight certification will be made during the spring semester.
Commercial service to Willard Airport would likely not be affected by reducing or eliminating flight programs.
The project team charged with evaluating the campus’s teaching support programs determined that all groups that provide services – the Center for Teaching Excellence, Campus Programs on Teaching and Learning, CITES/Research and Learning Technology Services and the Office of Continuing Education – should be consolidated into one group.
The team identified several factors related to the programs’ services, including exploring whether teaching services – which include technology education, teaching retreats and workshops, and other classroom training – should be centralized or discipline-specific; student outcomes assessment; the use and availability of technology; distance learning and addressing the accessibility of services and resources to instructors.
Easter and Wheeler have asked that a working group of campus representatives, nominated by deans, study these and other issues and provide recommendations by the end of the current academic year. In the spring semester, the group will host a symposium and solicit internal and external expertise on the issues. Changes and implementation of the programs’ restructuring will take place during the 2011-12 academic year.
The project team also recommended considering alternatives to the Compass course-management system. Sally Jackson, the chief information officer, has been asked to conduct a cost study of the existing course-management systems and present a general plan for managing the overall cost. The plan should be finished by the end of the current academic year.
The Graduate College project team concluded that most functions of the college should be at the central campus level, but that areas such as alumni relations, fundraising and career services will be evaluated to see whether they should be performed at the central or unit level.
The group also identified some other areas for which further deliberation or action is required. One area was graduate student record-keeping. According to the report, the college and the Office of the Registrar have had some difficulty in coordinating academic services. The group came up with some solutions to help streamline and make the processes involved more efficient. One solution was moving the registration and records functions from the registrar to the Graduate College.
Another area under review was the petitioning process for graduate students. Petitions are required for situations that include transferring courses from one degree to another, transferring courses from one institution to another or for reinstatement. A group is charged with reviewing this process.
The group also determined more fellowship support is needed for graduate students. Fellowships are stipends given to students that can cover tuition and fees without expectation of payment in return. The group also recommends exploring whether costs associated with having a Graduate College development officer is justified. The review of the position is to begin in summer 2011.
The team also had concerns about whether resources that are dedicated to educational equity – or access and diversity –
are being used effectively. The team will continue to explore the issues associated with equity and expect a full report at the end of the spring semester.
The team also recommended reviewing the size of the Graduate College.
The project team evaluating IT programs on campus came up with several recommendations, which included implementing the unified communications program; consolidating server rooms; implementing a shared service model for desktop and Web management; making the acquisition of IT-related services more streamlined and creating innovative online business processes that the entire campus can use.
The Unified Communications program will put voice communications, e-mail, voicemail, instate messaging and teleconferencing on a single program. The transition is under way.
The project team determined that consolidating servers and decommissioning small server rooms would generate $8.4 million in savings over five years. In consultation with the data consolidation committee, the project team identified 150 rooms totaling 75,000 square feet of space dedicated to servers that could be consolidated or eliminated.
The team also recommended that desktop and web management be put into a shared service model, eliminating the need for individual units to have their own IT staff. The College of Engineering is involved in the creation of a shared service center, called Engineering IT. As of July 1, all college IT staff, except those doing work for specific research groups, are a part of the new center – which encompasses all administrative, institutional and research-related IT.
A group made up of IT professionals, faculty and staff members and business managers will make suggestions about cost savings and service improvements regarding the acquisition of IT-related services. One thing the advisory group will evaluate is whether there are certain products or services that the campus should purchase centrally – as opposed to faculty members or units making separate purchases – in order to save money. The most common IT services the campus buys from commercial providers include professional website design, software application development, consultation on the installation of new systems, and contracts of hardware maintenance.
The team also noted that individual units develop their own IT solutions to “business processes,” which include student admissions, recording grades, reporting vacation and sick leave, requesting reimbursements for expenses, scheduling meeting rooms and other routine tasks.
Instead of each unit creating its own software to meet the specifications for these tasks, the project team suggested the campus come up with common computer programs that all units can use – which would reduce costs and increase efficiency.
The project team also asked that a group study the issue of data storage and curation.
Easter and Wheeler have directed the campus to begin work on several of the recommendations made by the team that evaluated waivers and scholarships.
Specifically, the campus has begun a fundraising initiative to support financial aid availability and recruiting efforts. In addition to this initiative, in the current year the campus increased its institutional support for financial aid by $4 million, which makes in excess of $25 million from centrally controlled funds available for financial aid.
Adopting the team’s recommendations, Easter and Wheeler asked the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics to prepare a plan to replace tuition waivers provided to student athletes with alternative sources of financial support, such as scholarships. Tuition waivers waive a student’s obligation to pay tuition – meaning the university receives no funding for tuition. Scholarships, on the other hand, are backed by specific dollar amounts.
In response, DIA has developed a five-year plan for reducing tuition waivers for student athletes. The campus will reduce its allocation of tuition waivers by $500,000 over a period of five years beginning in 2011-12.
At the end of five years, the campus will consider DIA’s findings on the impact of these reductions and assess the need for further waiver reductions. The money from the tuition waivers will be redirected to support for the general student population.
“The campus and the athletic department will monitor the impact of these changes, and future decisions will be informed by future needs and our evaluation of the impact of these changes, Kaler said. “The campus and DIA are committed to meeting the financial needs of student athletes and of all students.”
For overall campus scholarship policies, the team has recommended creating campus policy with guidelines for waiver and scholarship granting and improving coordination of campus and unit-level scholarship and waiver offers. Easter and Wheeler adopted the team’s recommendations and have directed that the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Office of Student Financial Aid, in consultation with campus admissions representatives, to draft an Undergraduate scholarship and waiver policy. The new policy regarding scholarships and waivers is meant to address granting appropriate amounts of money in the most efficient ways.
Several goals include an explicit articulation of campus priorities for the use of scholarships and waivers to recruit the best students and to address unmet financial need; a clear statement of commitment to diversity and how scholarships are to be used to serve that commitment; clear direction of how award amounts should be effective recruiting tools and a mandate that says aid will be capped at the cost of attendance. In some instances, award amounts have exceeded the cost of attendance. The offices of Undergraduate Admissions and Student Financial Aid also will evaluate and make recommendations to Easter and Wheeler on ways to improve the coordination of scholarship and waiver offers.