Illinois Senate passes Big Ten bill on to House

Bailey Williams, Assistant City Editor

The Illinois Senate passed a bill this week that would create a committee to study the possibility of adding another Illinois school to the Big Ten Conference.

“It presents … another affordable option to secure a degree in higher education,” said state Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Mt. Prospect), one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

The bill looks to amend the Board of Higher Education Act by introducing a committee to study the feasibility of a state school joining the Big Ten. State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine), a co-sponsor of the bill, said a number of individuals, including a Big Ten parent who pays out-of-state tuition and people from the “higher education world,” would comprise the committee.

Murphy represents a suburban district, where many students look to University of Illinois for their college decision, he said. When these students don’t get into the university, they look to out-of-state Big Ten schools, Murphy said.

Murphy said he wanted a parent who pays out-of-state tuition in order to incorporate their perspective. The bill would potentially give more Illinois students the chance to attend a Big Ten school and pay in-state tuition.

Kotowski also pushed for the bill to pass the Senate. He said adding another Big Ten school down the line would bolster the economy. Kotowski used Northwestern as an example, saying the school, like other Big Ten universities, has a “profound ripple effect” on the economy in the surrounding community.

Kotowski also said that he expects to see a “healthy conversation” on this, anticipating “good challenges and opportunities.”

“Support for higher education is probably one of the most important issues in our state,” Kotowski said.

Rae Goldsmith, a spokeswoman for Southern Illinois University, said that over the last ten years the school’s admissions rates have fallen but this year the university had the largest student admission rate in 20 years. Goldsmith said the university is in the process of turning the decline around.

Goldsmith said athletics are one of many factors that can attract students to a university. Goldsmith said the types of programs offered, the things surrounding the institution and research also contributed to admissions rates. The rates really come down to “how well you define yourself and tell your story as an institution,” she said.

The bill passed the state Senate 51-1 on Tuesday with two senators voting present. It is currently being considered by the Illinois House of Representatives Rules Committee.

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