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Suburban Lawmakers Push for Another Big Ten School in Illinois

Senators Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, and Michael Connelly, R-Naperville, have introduced legislation that will study the feasibility of making one of the current state universities a Big Ten school.

Sen. Michael Connelly, R-Naperville, wants to see another Big Ten school in Illinois.
Sen. Michael Connelly, R-Naperville, wants to see another Big Ten school in Illinois.

Two suburban senators want to keep college tuition low and retain home-grown talent in Illinois. And they think creating another Big Ten school in the state could help make that happen, according to an Illinois Senate GOP press release.

Senators Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, and Michael Connelly, R-Naperville, have introduced legislation that will study the feasibility of making one of the current state universities a Big Ten school, according to the news release. 

The news release did not specify which Illinois school Murphy and Connelly think should be added as a Big Ten school. 

The Daily Herald reports state lawmakers do not decide which universities play in the Big Ten conference and Big Ten spokesman did not immediately respond to a question over whether they were seeking another school to join its ranks. 

Senate Bill 3526 will create a study commission to explore the possibility of establishing an existing Illinois public university as another Big Ten university. The bill passed the Senate Higher Education Committee on March 19 and now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.

The two lawmakers said the idea developed after learning more and more suburban students leave Illinois to attend other, high-priced Big Ten institutions out-of-state. Murphy said Illinois is the fifth largest state in the country, which creates a competitive admission process at the state’s lone flagship university.

“The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has become highly competitive to the point where we are seeing students with excellent grades and test scores get shut out of attending our in-state, public Big Ten school,” Murphy said. “Many end up choosing to look out-of-state to receive a Big Ten education, costing them and their parents tens of thousands of dollars in higher out-of-state tuition. We should make it easier for these students to stay in Illinois, not look for greener pastures across state lines." 

Connelly noted that other surrounding — and smaller — states have multiple public Big Ten schools, namely Michigan and Indiana.  He said he hoped this effort could be what is needed to retain young people and keep tuition costs lower.

“Given the large number of Illinois residents who attend Big Ten schools outside of our state, the demand for a second in-state Big Ten university is clearly high. It is my hope this commission can find a way to deliver a higher education system that gives our young people the opportunities they seek at a price they and their parents can afford,” he said.

The commission would be comprised of higher education professionals, one member from each of the four legislative caucuses, an Illinois resident paying out-of-state tuition to a Big Ten institution, and a student from Illinois who has left the state to attend another Big Ten institution.  

The commission’s report would be due to the General Assembly by Jan. 1, 2015. 

joseph alotta March 24, 2014 at 09:33 AM
Why not make two or three?
Kent Frederick March 24, 2014 at 02:34 PM
First, there are a lot of Big 10 fans who think that the conference will be too big, when Rutgers and Maryland start competing this fall. Second, for a school to be invited to join the Big 10, it normally must be a member of the American Association of Universities. Member schools conduct a lot of research and have very good graduate programs. The only member schools in Illinois are U of I, NU, and Chicago. Do schools like UIC, Northern, or Southern conduct enough research to make an application for membership in the AAU worthwhile? Third, another school in Illinois adds nothing to the Big 10. Between U of I and NU, the two major TV markets in Illinois (Chicago and St.Louis/East St. Louis/Belleville) are covered. Getting Rutgers and Maryland into the conference meant adding the New York, Baltimore and Washington, DC TV markets. Last, what makes the difference if bright high school students leave Illinois for higher education? The fact that a person leaves Illinois for college doesn't mean they won't come back. I attended Michigan, because schools like NU and Chicago were too close to home, and too many kids from my high school went to U of I. Yet, I had every intention of starting a career in Chicago or the suburbs. It never occurred to me to get a job in Detroit, New York or elsewhere.

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