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University of Illinois Votes to End Aviation Program

University of Illinois Votes to End Aviation Program

The University of Illinois will end its Institute of Aviation.

Meeting in Chicago Thursday, University trustees approved a resolution on a 6 to 2 vote to close the program based at its Urbana campus and do away with the bachelor's degree it offers. Trustees Tom Koritz and Ricardo Estrada voted to keep the program going.

Interim Chancellor Robert Easter says closing Aviation would save about $750,000 a year and the program's enrollment has dropped more than 50 percent since 2002. Current Aviation students will be allowed to complete their studies.

And there has been talk in the Trustees meeting of continuing the program with Parkland College. But since enrollment to the program was halted prior to last spring, Aviation Interim Director Tom Emanuel questions how that will happen.

"Several of them (trustees) spoke about well, just hang in there, we do have until 2013 to work this out," he said. "Well, in truth, we don't because we don't have students coming in the program, and in 2013, there won't be anyone to work with come that time."

Dana Dann-Messier heads the Institute's Alumni Advisory Board. He's afraid any talk of a partnership with Parkland was a ploy to make Trustees feel better about their decision.

"This is not what the industry wants," said Dann-Messier. "Industry wants four-year collegiate degrees for their candidates. They won't look as highly on a community college for our candiates. It will provide an opportunity for students that want to engage in flight training. I hope the provost and chancellor are genuine about that opportunity."

Graduates of the Institute of Aviation and other opponents of the proposal said the university started targeting the program years ago by leaving faculty positions open and in other moves. They say the demand for pilots will only increase and the end of the institute leaves a gap.

Aviation Instructor Erin Tilev says trustees weren't given ample time to delve into such a large issue. And while her job could be ending in three years, Tilev says she's more concerned that the institute can't carry any more students, and turn out great pilots.