University of Illinois chancellor: Budget is top priority

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In this Jan. 22, 2014 photo, University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise talks with university President Timothy Killeen in the provost’s office at the Swanlund Administration Building in Champaign, Ill. Wise says the budget at the university’s Urbana-Champaign campus is her top priority for the coming year. She says that Gov. Bruce Rauner has said to expect budget cuts. But Wise says furloughs and staff cuts aren’t among the options the campus is considering as it prepares for life with less state funding. | John Dixon / AP

CHAMPAIGN — With warnings from the new governor that money from the state will be cut, the budget is the top priority ahead for University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus Chancellor Phyllis Wise.

How the university spends its money will be even more important than usual after Gov. Bruce Rauner’s warning, Wise said in an interview with The News-Gazette in Champaign.

“He’s already given us notice that we have to count on budget cuts,” she said. “At these kinds of times, it becomes even more important that we are strategic, that we continue to invest in what is essential for the long-term vibrancy of the campus while we decide where we’re going to have to make some cuts.”

But personnel moves such as hiring freezes and furloughs are not possibilities, she said.

In the interview, Wise said she thinks President Barack Obama’s idea to provide two free years of community college education could be a good one, provided the money to pay for it isn’t taken from funds now devoted to four-year schools.

Wise also discussed the importance of having winning sports teams as a sort of gateway to the university.

Illinois’ football team has endured three straight losing seasons. The other most visible team on campus, the men’s basketball team, missed the NCAA Tournament last season.

“Insofar as athletics is an ambassador to the rest of the academic house, it’s important,” she said.

Wise said she has great confidence in athletic director Mike Thomas.

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