Parkland College Could Take Over UI Institute Of Aviation
Parkland College may be taking over the University of Illinois’ Institute of Aviation. The school's Board of Trustees will vote on an intergovermental agreement Wednesday.
U of I Trustees voted to end the institute in 2011. There are still students enrolled, but stopped accepting new ones after Trustees cut the program.
Parkland President Tom Ramage says his school would hope to take over operations by the fall of 2014.
He admitted the operation of a flight school connected to Parkland would start smaller than the institute’s largest classes of more than 200 students.
“That’s certainly the top end, given the number of airplanes available, and just the number of hours in a day that those can be scheduled," he said. "Obviously we’d be starting much smaller. There are some 90-ish students in the program today, and we’d be hoping to start around the same number, and grow it up to a reasonable approximation of 200 in a short period of time.”
Ramage says Parkland has been looking at taking over Aviation for about five years, but this proposal has the advantage of a working partner, Riverside Research of the U of I's Research Park.
He said if the program is approved, Parkland would likely subcontract some services from Riverside.
"Aviation is not something Parkland College has a lot of experience with," he said. "But we have partners who do. And that's the difference this time is we have another partner who has experience with not only aviation in general, but perhaps flight schools. That's the difference today, is we have some reasonable chance for creating a program that makes good sense from the student standpoint and the institutional standpoint."
“We are excited that Parkland College is considering continuing this program, so that students throughout this community, including those at Illinois, will have a path into a great career," said U of I Urbana campus Chancellor Phyllis Wise, in a statement.
Ramage says the cost to Parkland to pick up the Institute would be "almost zero."
Parkland College Trustees meet on the campus at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Informal talks continue that may allow Parkland College to take over the University of Illinois' Institute of Aviation in three years.
The U of I's Board of Trustees voted last week to shut it down, once current students complete the program in 2014. The Institute's Interim Director, Tom Emanuel, met Wednesday with Interim Chancellor Robert Easter for what he calls a preliminary conversation.
Emanuel said the next step is for administrators at both schools to meet, and see if Parkland's finances will allow such a transfer. Those meetings likely will not happen until the fall semester starts. But Emanuel said Parkland could offer courses in addition to flight training.
"I do know Parkland has some interest in looking at a broader aviation program that would include maybe some other things, even conceivably, something with aviation mechanics... I just heard that through the grapevine literally," Emanuel said. "But it makes sense. Aviation is the second largest money producer in the state of Illinois after agriculture."
Easter said he holds out hope that flight training would have a future locally beyond 2014.
"Having a quality program locally available for students coming to the University of Illinois with an interest in learning flying skills," he said. "Proceeding to certification (with Parkland) would be a real plus. And so our interest is if there's a way we can facilitate that, as I told the Board (of Trustees) last week, we will do that."
Easter called last Thursday's decision to close the Institute one of the tougher days in his role of administrator, but said it was the right one to allow for the growth of other programs on the Urbana campus. Administrators say closing Aviation would save $750,000 in a program suffering from declining enrollment.
Emanuel said any arrangement with Parkland would have to be done on smaller scale, since Parkland is a two-year institution and doesn't have the authority to offer a baccalaureate degree. And Emanuel said the Institute's aircraft belong to the U of I's Board of Trustees, and cannot be transferred to a community college. But Emanuel said he believes some arrangement could be made for Parkland to use the planes if everything else falls into place.