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Partnership Eyed To Keep Illinois Flight School Open

University Of Illinois Institute Of Aviation Slated To Close Next Year

Parkland College, a community college in Illinois, and defense contractor Riverside Research, based in New York, are in discussions with the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in an effort to continue pilot training at the UI Institute of Aviation.

The UI aviation school is slated to be closed next year. It owns 30 single-engine aircraft and employs 20 people, according to a report appearing in the central Illinois News-Gazette. The university's board of trustees voted in July, 2011 to scrap the aviation program, citing "declining interest" and potential savings of $750,000 per year. The vote came despite a lobbying effort on the part of staff, alumni, and the aviation industry.

There are not yet any firm plans for what the program would look like should the deal go through. Parkland currently has no formal aviation program, but has in the past offered ground school courses on a not-for-credit basis. Kris Young, vice president for academic services at Parkland, said the deal would be "very complicated ... it would be a sizable and different addition to what we do."

Young said the community college might offer an associate’s degree in science with an aviation focus, with the credits transferrable to a four-year university like UI. The community college offers other such programs, called Parkland Pathways, and Young said she would like to see one that supports aviation students.

Enrollment at the UI Aviation Institute has declined from a peak of 266 in the 2006-2007 school year to 50 this summer. The three parties intend to meet together for the first time this month to discuss their options.

FMI: www.parkland.edu, https://apps.uillinois.edu, www.riversideresearch.org

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