ISU trustees vote to purchase sites on Raab Road in Normal, expand nursing program to Springfield
As Illinois State University prepares for its 2025 launch of a newCollege of Engineering, trustees on Monday approved the purchase of a former Lincoln College building and the site of a beauty school — both located in the 700 block of Raab Road in Normal — to house non-engineering administrative workers.
Vice President of Finance Dan Stephens told trustees the purchase was "step one" of an ongoing, $61 million process to turn the John Green and Carter Harris buildings into a temporary home for the newly-created engineering school.
The additional purchase of the sites at 715 and 755 Raab Road is slated to cost "no more than $4.1 million plus reasonable closing and related costs," according to meeting documentation.
"This particular purchase was designed to begin that staging process where we're going to be moving individuals out of the John Green complex," Stephens told trustees. "It's administrative personnel, and they will move onto this site so that we can dedicate 100% of that area in the John Green facility and the front of Carter Harris... to the labs and the faculty offices and the things dedicated to engineering."
Stephens said it's likely that building at 715 Raab — the one formerly used by Lincoln College as its Normal satellite campus — will be ready for move-in by next spring; the building at 755 Raab Road is currently occupied by Tricoci University of Beauty Culture, a cosmetology school whose lease does not expire until October 2024.
Until the lease expires, or until Tricoci decides to terminate its lease, the business will pay rent to ISU.
Funding for the real estate purchase was split between parking division reserves (around $1.1 million) and general funds (around $3 million).
Mennonite College of Nursing expands to Springfield
Trustees on Monday also approved a agreement with Memorial Health System that will allow ISU to sublet space north of downtown Springfield, bringing the Mennonite College of Nursing to the state capitol. The university will sublet around 10,000 square feet of space.
The $6 million partnership between ISU and Memorial Health includes an annual donation of $580,000 to ISU from the health care system, as long as the university meets specific enrollment goals. Those donations will cover program operation costs and sublease payments, although ISU will be responsible for other costs like utilities and maintenance that add up to about $110,000 per year.
Judy Neubrander, the dean of ISU's nursing program, told trustees she didn't expect there would be any challenges in meeting enrollment criteria.
"We anticipate meeting it and exceeding it for sure," she said.
Neubrander said ISU already receives between 200 and 300 transfer applications from upper-level nursing students; of those applicants, fewer than 50 are selected due to program size.
"We think there will be opportunities for students that would be willing to complete their education at the Springfield location," she said. "Our first choice is to find the students that are coming from the region around Springfield ... We also think we will have students that may want to come to Illinois State for their freshman and sophomore years, then go down to the Springfield location."
The trustees' approval of the agreement with Memorial Health on Monday follows a recently announced appropriation of $1 million in federal money for the college's new nursing simulation lab. The total cost of the building addition in the 400 block of West Locust Street is expected to be around $18 million.
The new simulation center "is increasing our freshman this year, then next year we'll be bringing in juniors," said ISU president Terri Goss Kinzy. "That's a lot of expansion."
Kinzy told trustees that enrollment numbers at ISU are up across the board after a couple of years of COVID-related slowdowns.
She said compared to last year: Deposits for first-time students are up 20%; the number of transfer students applying to ISU is up by nearly 3%; and 25% more graduate students have been admitted. Exact enrollment numbers will be determined after the start of the semester.
In an interview following the trustees' meeting, Kinzy credited, in part, the uptick in numbers to establishment of the Common App, a single, online application in which potential students can apply to 12 of Illinois' public colleges or universities at one time.
"That greatly increases your visibility and makes it easier for more students to apply," she said.
Still, while an uptick in students is good news for the university, ISU honors advising specialist and Civil Service Council chair Stuart Palmer advised trustees there "will be challenges that the campus will need to address to accommodate these students."
Palmer said housing staff have spent months "planning mitigating measures ... in anticipation of the increased housing needs, including opening additional housing spaces and granting more housing exemptions for our returning students."
"Given staffing shortages in many areas of campus and our community, campus dining may also be a challenge," Palmer added.
WGLT to move to Vidette building in collaborative journalism initiative
Trustees on Monday also approved a plan to relocate the operations of WGLT to the Vidette offices in a building at 500 W. Locust St.
The move is aimed at providing a journalism lab experience for ISU media students via collaboration in shared spaces and with WGLT reporters.
The trustees' vote authorized the beginning of plan to design and renovate the Vidette building at a total cost of "not more than $650,000."