President Tim Killeen, chancellors from University of Illinois System universities and other system leaders on Tuesday will begin a statewide tour to explore new ways the system can work with partners around the state to meet key challenges and opportunities facing the citizens of Illinois, and to highlight areas where cooperative efforts are already paying off.
The tour will take the president and other U of I System leaders to stops from Cairo at the state’s southern tip to the Metro East, Chicago and elsewhere. It will build on a series of trips last fall designed to learn more about challenges facing communities across Illinois and the needs of potential partners.
Killeen said he is eager to meet with people across the state, including lawmakers, business leaders and others working locally to create a better Illinois. He plans to discuss ways in which the U of I System can forge new partnerships and strengthen existing collaborations to leverage its power as an economic and intellectual engine.
“The idea behind this tour is partnering with purpose, and by working with partners across the state, the U of I System can help drive the kinds of positive change that create opportunities for people to live healthier, more prosperous lives,” Killeen said. “We already graduate more than 26,000 people a year and reach into every corner of Illinois. But we believe there are more ways that we can touch lives and live up to our ongoing mission to be a force for the public good.”
Killeen highlighted the results of a recent study by Lightcast (formerly EMSI Burning Glass), an international labor market analytics firm, that found that the U of I System generates $19 billion a year for the state’s economy and supports more than 164,000 jobs, one of every 46 jobs in the state. The study also pointed to the university system as a strong investment for Illinois: For every dollar of public money invested in the U of I System, taxpayers receive a return of $3.10 over the course of students’ working lives through additional taxes collected on higher earnings and reduced public costs for health care, social services and the justice system.
In all, the system’s economic impact on the state has grown by 8.6 percent – roughly $1.5 billion – since the last study in 2018. “I am proud of the impact our universities already have on Illinois, and we believe we can do more,” Killeen added.
The tour will begin on Tuesday at the Ag Day Breakfast at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, followed later that day by stops that include Continental Tire’s manufacturing facility in Mt. Vernon.
Further stops Wednesday and Thursday will include tours of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign research facility in Dixon Springs and the Inland River Port in Cairo, meetings with leaders from Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and a meeting with Olympic Gold Medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee at the JJK Foundation in East St. Louis.
The tour will continue with two additional legs in September focused on partners in northern Illinois and Chicagoland.