U of Illinois President: Cuts may be less than proposed

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URBANA, Ill. (AP) — In his first day on the job, new University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen said Monday that he is optimistic state-budget cuts will not be as deep as the 31.5 percent that Gov. Bruce Rauner initially proposed. Such cuts would be devastating for the university, Killeen said.

But Killeen told reports Monday in his office that after speaking with Rauner and lawmakers he believes the cuts the university faces as the state tries to deal with a deep budget shortfall will be less severe. And he hopes further talks with lawmakers will help.

"We're going to work to reduce that number," Killeen said.

Killeen said one of his top priorities will be emphasizing the value of the university to lawmakers as they work on a state budget this month in Springfield. And he wants to make the university a stronger part of efforts to revitalize the state's economy.

Killeen is the former vice chancellor for research at The State University of New York.

He replaces retiring President Robert Easter and takes over a university system with 78,000 students on three main campuses, in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.

The state provides about 11 percent of the university's $5.6 billion operating budget, but a 31.5 percent cut in that state appropriation would still mean a loss of more than $200 million.

Any cuts the university would need to make would start with administrative expenses, Killeen said.

The new president said he also plans to search for ways to help ease rising tuition costs.

The rising cost of college has become a painful issue around the country.

University of Illinois trustees voted earlier this year to freeze tuition for the coming school year at $12,036 a year at the flagship Urbana-Champaign campus, $10,584 at the Chicago campus and $9,405 in Springfield. But the cost of four years of tuition and housing at the Urbana-Champaign campus still tops $100,000.

"We need to provide an affordable, accessible world-class education for the people of Illinois," Killeen said.

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