Other campuses won’t follow UIC with Common App

A university committee has recommended against adopting the Common Application for admissions on the Urbana-Champaign and Springfield campuses.

UIC began using the Common App, an undergraduate admission application shared by 488 colleges and universities, for fall 2013 admissions.

“The UIC experience is very new, an experiment in the making,” Christophe Pierre, university vice president for academic affairs, told the U of I Board of Trustees at its May 29 meeting on the Chicago campus.

“The overall result is a good result, but there have been consequences we don’t fully understand yet, that we’ll be studying.”

The Common Application is a nonprofit organization established to promote equity and access in college admissions through a “holistic selection process” that includes an essay, letters of recommendation, and additional information such as student employment, internships and personal experience.

A team formed by then-President Michael Hogan in 2011 recommended the university consider using the Common App for each campus.

Pierre said the Common App’s potential advantages include improved visibility and branding and better outreach to out-of-state and international applicants.

UIC’s first use of the Common App resulted in a slight increase in the number of applications and improvement in the quality of applicants, he said, but in-state applications were down and the number of applicants to individual colleges shifted compared to previous years.

“It’s hard to tell if this is a result of the Common App or not,” he said, adding that further analysis is needed.

Administrators at UIS and UIUC both concluded “it was not in their best interest to join,” Pierre told trustees.

The Urbana-Champaign application process, which uses applicant-reported academic records instead of transcripts, is not compatible with the current version of the Common App.

The cost of adopting the Common App and the prospect of impending improvements to the application are additional reasons to wait, Pierre said.

The university will monitor admission and enrollment trends at its three campuses and other Big Ten universities and revisit the use of the Common App later, he said.


Downward forecast

An update of the financial outlook for the State of Illinois presents “a very, very disturbing picture,” said David Merriman, associate director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs, in a report to the board.

“Unemployment has taken a sharp upturn,” Merriman said. “The Illinois economy appears to be faltering relative to its Midwestern neighbors.”

Although the U.S. economy is slowly improving, “Illinois is one of the very few states in the country going the other way,” he said.

Merriman said the state has amassed $9 billion in unpaid bills. Of even more concern, however, is the scheduled 2015 expiration of a temporary increase in income tax, Merriman said.

Walter Knorr, vice president for finance, said the effect of sequestration on federally funded research at the university has been less than feared, “but there’s a lot of uncertainty still out there.”

Knorr said the state’s financial problems will have a direct effect on university employees when they begin paying “very significant increases” in health insurance rates as of July 1 — increases that equate to about 1 percent of an employee’s salary, he added.

However, the backlog in payment of state appropriations to the university for its FY 13 operating budget, which in January reached a record $502 million, has been reduced to about $250 million, Knorr said.

The state appropriation for the budget year ending June 30 “will all be paid by Dec. 31, they say,” Knorr added.


In other action:

• The board passed a new policy limiting the use of search firms to fill university positions, in accordance with a new state law.

Requests to use a search firm must be approved by the campus and the university president.

Search firms can be used only in the hiring of the university president, or cases where strict confidentiality is required in the initial stages, the position requires extensive recruiting in a competitive market, or candidates are in a specialized field “outside the traditional areas of higher education.”

• Three years were added to the contract for UIC head men’s basketball coach Howard Moore, extending it through March 31, 2018. His base salary for 2013-2014 is $333,900, with a $15,000 iincrease for 2014-2015 and incentive increases based on team performance. The contract for UIC athletic director Jim Schmidt was extended through Jan. 23, 2019, with a 5 percent salary increase to $230,422.


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