logo for the Illinois State University Board of Trustees 20th anniversaryThe Illinois State University Board of Trustees held its quarterly meeting on February 19. During the meeting, the Board approved a European Studies degree, renewed student health insurance, authorized improvements for the former site of Rambo House and approved bond refinancing.

 European Studies degree authorized

The Board authorized the creation of a Bachelor of Arts in European Studies. The program is designed to prepare students for international careers through a cohesive course of study in the arts, history, languages, and cultures of one or more European nations.

The program was developed by a steering committee of faculty members from the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; College of Fine Arts; and the Department of History, which will administer the program. The program, which draws together existing course offerings and academic resources, is expected to enroll up to 40 students when fully implemented. The interdisciplinary program is also part of a University initiative to internationalize the curriculum and increase the number of Illinois State students studying abroad.

Student health insurance

The Board approved the renewal of an agreement with Aetna Student Health for the University’s student health and accident insurance. The renewal agreement covers the 2016-2017 policy year. Board members also approved the student health insurance rate of $249 for the fall 2016 and spring 2017 semesters and $187 for summer 2017. The rates remain the same as those charged for the 2015-2016 policy year, with no fee increase.

Watterson painting, Rambo site improvements

The Board approved expenditures for interior painting in the Watterson Towers residence hall and the creation of a landscaped plaza on the site of the recently demolished Rambo House.

Board of Trustees members approved the expenditure of $690,000 for repainting student rooms, common suite areas, and student bathrooms in the north tower of Watterson Towers. The project is part of a campus plan to refresh the appearance of student living areas in residence halls on a rotating schedule. Work will be performed by University painters and private contractors during the summer, in preparation for the return of students in the fall 2016 semester. Funding for the project comes from bond revenue reserves.

Trustees also approved modifying the existing Rambo House demolition and site improvement project to include the design and construction of a landscaped plaza. In February 2014, Trustees approved $750,000 for the demolition of Rambo House and related site improvements. Rambo House was demolished during the fall 2015 semester and the site was leveled and prepared for redevelopment. Student leaders reactivated a plan, first proposed in 2006, to develop a plaza reflecting Redbird pride on the Rambo House site. The new plaza will include paved pathways, seating areas, green space, and a Reggie Redbird icon as a focal point. Trustees approved the expansion of the Rambo House demolition and redevelopment project budget from its original $750,000 to $900,000, with the additional $150,000 coming from student government and donor funds.

Bond refinancing

Trustees authorized a measure to refinance bonds issued for campus renovation and building projects, and amended the language of an agreement for payment of certificates of participation issued for campus IT improvements.

To take advantage of current lower interest rates, Board of Trustees members voted to issue a new series of auxiliary facilities revenue bonds to replace one series of bonds issued in 2006. The bonds were originally issued to finance residence hall renovation projects, the construction of the South University Street parking deck, and the planning and site development of the Student Fitness Center. The remaining outstanding principal balance on that 2006 bond series is $39.6 million. With current lower interest rates, the University will realize a savings of approximately $3.5 million. To further increase savings and expand the University’s debt capacity, the University will also apply $3.48 million in cash reserves toward repayment of the 2006 bonds.

Board members also approved a change in the language of an agreement on repayment of certificates of participation issued in 2014 to finance campus IT infrastructure improvements. The change allows the University to make annual principal payments to JP Morgan Chase without that bank having to surrender the entire certificate to the Trustees each April 1, as per an earlier agreement. The change in terms was initiated by JP Morgan Chase and modifications will be made at the bank’s expense with no negative consequences for the University.