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State Lawmakers Push For Another Big Ten School In Illinois

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Some state lawmakers seem to want to play the role of Big Ten commissioner, and have taken steps to study the feasibility of having another Illinois college join the conference.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University already are members of the Big Ten, and the conference has expanded twice in recent years – adding the University of Nebraska in 2011, and the University of Maryland and Rutgers University later this year

Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) has introduced legislation that would require the Illinois Board of Higher Education to set up a commission to look into having one of Illinois’ 11 other public universities join the Big Ten.

Murphy has said enrollment at the University of Illinois has become so competitive, many students with top grades and test scores don’t make it in, and end up going to Big Ten schools in other states. He thinks more would go to schools in Illinois if another public university were in the Big Ten.

The Unviersity of Illinois is the only public university in Illinois in the Big Ten. Northwestern is a private university (the only private university in the Big Ten), with a much smaller enrollment and much higher tuition than the public universities in the conference.

His proposal has the backing of former Northwestern linebacker and current state Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmoor), and was unanimously endorsed by the Senate Higher Education Committee on Thursday. The measure now goes to the full Senate.

If the measure were approved, the Board of Higher Education would have to set up an 8-member committee to study the feasibility of having another Illinois university join the Big Ten. The committee would have to file a report by next year.

The other public universities in Illinois include Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Springfield, and Western Illinois University.

State lawmakers have no official say in whether a university would actually apply to join the Big Ten, much less whether the conference would approve such a move.