Why is Illinois letting its public colleges suffer?

Despite all of the difficulties college students face nowadays, the state of Illinois appears to have set in place another obstacle. The inert condition of the state’s budget has affected many schools and students across Illinois: Schools are closing their doors and laying off employees, students…

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Why is Illinois letting its public colleges suffer?

Illinois turns retired state college employees into millionaires. How does your pension compare?

By Dennis Byrne, today at 3:12 pm

Total up what you expect to receive from your private pension and social security and see if it matches the astonishing rich pensions that the state of Illinois (i.e. taxpayers) gives to its public university employees.

There’s a guy who, believe it, is expected to receive a $22.3 million lifetime state sponsored pension. He leads the pack. He is Leslie Heffez,, a Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery from the University of Illinois at Chicago, who retired at 55 and who collects a $564,298 annual pension. Okay, so maybe he deserves it because he’s some kind of unique expert. So, what do the "ordinary" state university employees get?

As Taxpayer United of America has reporteddollar sign

  • The average 2016 annual SURS [State Universities Retirement System] pension is $35,751.
  • The average amount that employees paid into their own pension fund is $48,764, or 5 percent of their estimated lifetime pension payout.
  • The average estimated lifetime payout is $947,211.
  • The average age at retirement is 61.
  • The average years of employment are 18.

If you can take it, here is some more from  Taxpayers United of America:

  • Total number of 2016 SURS pension beneficiaries is approximately 62,792.
  • 3,955 collect pensions in excess of $100,000.
  • 15,628 collect pensions in excess of $50,000.
  • In fiscal year 2015, taxpayers were forced to pay $1,590,900,000 into the government pension fund.
  • In fiscal year 2015, SURS government employees paid $340,000,000 into their own pension fund.
  • At the end of fiscal year 2015, SURS had a 42.37% funded ratio with a $22.4 billion unfunded liability.

Sure, blame the politicians for robbing the state pension funds to pay for everyday state expenses (including state university subsidies), but there’s this:  Since "2011, SURS has received the full annual statutory contribution from the state of Illinois."

Gee, so how is your pension and social security looking now?

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Illinois turns retired state college employees into millionaires. How does your pension compare?

High schoolers, parents are wary of Illinois colleges as budget crisis hits schools

When Michael Houlihan narrowed his choices for college, Eastern Illinois University and Illinois State University made the short list. But as he neared the end of his senior year at De La Salle Institute in Bronzeville, Houlihan and his mother became …

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High schoolers, parents are wary of Illinois colleges as budget crisis hits schools

Biotech leader, former Google exec to speak at UI commencement

20160331-102159-pic-72474302.jpg

Photo by: Provided

Jeff Huber. Photo from University of Illinois Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

CHAMPAIGN — The head of a biotech company and former Google executive will be the keynote speaker at the University of Illinois Commencement on May 14.

Jeff Huber, a UI computer engineering graduate, is CEO of Grail, which is developing a revolutionary blood test to detect early stage cancer.

The company was formed with a more than $100 million investment by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Illumina (the leader in genome sequencing), ARCH Ventures, Google Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures. It builds on "ultradeep genome sequencing" technology, leading-edge computing, bioinformatics and machine learning to create new scientific understanding of cancer biology.

A technique called "liquid biopsy" scans blood for traces of cancer DNA and then indicates that a tumor is forming — even before the doctor or patient have detected it. By detecting cancer early, at stage 1 or stage 2, 80 to 90 percent of cancers can be cured with current treatments, Huber said in a recent CNN interview.

Huber said he founded the company in memory of his wife, Laura, who died of cancer after a late diagnosis.

Huber earned his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the UI in 1989 and a master’s degree from Harvard University.

Before joining Grail, Huber was an engineer and senior executive at Google from 2003-16, where he played leadership roles in developing and improving landmark products such as Google Maps and Gmail.

He also led technology development for Google Ads, which transformed the company from a $1 billion business to a $50 billion business. He also worked at the intersection of life sciences and computing at Google[x].

He was previously vice president of architecture and systems development at eBay and senior vice president of engineering at Excite@Home, where he led consumer product and infrastructure development.

"We tell our graduates that an Illinois degree is far more than a seal on a piece of paper. I can’t think of anyone who better demonstrates that kind of transformational creativity, drive and vision than Jeff Huber," Interim Chancellor Barb Wilson said in a release. "We hope it serves as a constant reminder that our students leave here with the knowledge and skills to literally reimagine and reinvent their world."

Huber is a member of the boards of directors of Electronic Arts and The Exploratorium, and a former board member of Illumina.

Commencement is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. May 14 at Memorial Stadium.

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Biotech leader, former Google exec to speak at UI commencement

Illinois colleges weigh lost scholarship funding due to state budget crisis

Among the students most in peril as the state operates without a budget are those who receive state dollars to help pay for their college education.

The Monetary Assistance Program, known as MAP grants, provide up to $4,720 to the state’s neediest students who can use the funds to go to any public or private school. The money is pledged to students prior to the school year, but it’s only sent to schools if it’s appropriated by the legislature and approved by the governor.

The MAP program provided about $373 million in scholarships to low-income students last year.

No state budget means no MAP funding has been released in the 2015-16 school year. Most community colleges and four-year universities have covered the cost of the scholarships this academic year. But with no assurances from Springfield that money will be restored, public and private colleges and universities must decide if they will bankroll the scholarships if the budget impasse continues into the fall.

Some schools have pledged to continue covering the grants next year, including Governors State University, DePaul University, Monmouth College and Concordia University Chicago.

"The sad part of this entire story statewide is that the state made the promise of funding to students and these are the students that need the funding the most," said Trent Gilbert, vice president for enrollment at Monmouth College, where about 550 students get MAP grants.

For the current year, Concordia University has covered $2.3 million in MAP funding for more than 500 students, and will continue to do so next fall.

Governors State President Elaine Maimon said were it not for financial support, some of her students may not pursue higher education at all. The school put up about $2.8 million to replace lost MAP grants for 1,941 students in the fall and spring semesters.

"We’re doing that because we don’t want to lose those students to nowhere," Maimon said.

But some schools that credited student accounts for the scholarships this year, including the University of Illinois campuses and Northern Illinois University, have said students may end up owing their institution if the state does not fund MAP this fall.

U. of I. was expecting to receive $60 million in MAP dollars for the school year. Spokesman Thomas Hardy said administrators will decide after May 1 how the school will reconcile the lost MAP funds from the spring term. No decision has been made for the 2016-17 school year.

The Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago last week told students that they would have to repay MAP grants for the fall semester. The university did not foot the bill for the spring semester, instead requiring students to find another way to make up that funding. It also does not plan to cover the costs next academic year if there’s no budget.

"It is tough for any institution that has a large low-income population to accept that they will write off that money," said David Baker, IIT’s vice president of external affairs. "The state of Illinois promised this to our students, as a key policy. To have it disrupted like this is hard to imagine."

About 730 IIT students were supposed to receive MAP grants this year totaling about $3.5 million, and the university has said that students will get the money back if the grants are included whenever a budget is passed.

The Tribune’s Dawn Rhodes contributed.

jscohen@tribpub.com

Twitter @higherednews

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Illinois colleges weigh lost scholarship funding due to state budget crisis

Harper College lays off 29 employees in wake of Illinois budget stalemate

Palatine’s Harper College notified 29 full-time and part-time employees this week they will be out of a job come June 30.

Harper officials say the layoffs come in response to Illinois’ ongoing budget impasse, and are expected to save the college $3.5 million.

Harper expects to save an additional $1.5 million by reducing travel, supplies and printing spending.

"The employee reductions are extremely painful, but like other colleges and universities, we have to face the fiscal reality that the political stalemate in Springfield continues to place our state funding at risk," Harper College President Ken Ender said. "Unfortunately, we see no resolution to the budget impasse in the near future."

While 19 full-time employees and 10 part-time employees have been told they will be laid off, Harper is eliminating a total of 62 full-time and part-time positions through voluntary employee reductions, department realignments and the elimination of vacant positions. The college is offering voluntary early retirement to eligible faculty members.

Illinois owes Harper $8 million in state aid and $1.5 million in Monetary Award Program grants that help low-income students, according to a college news release.

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Harper College lays off 29 employees in wake of Illinois budget stalemate

QU to announce financial plan amid state budget shortfall

A local building is deteriorating fast from the roof to the basement, and neighbors are worried. Businesses that neighbor the former Palace nightclub, at 601 Blondeau St, Keokuk, are worried that the 105-year-old building will continue to drop bricks, glass and siding that could hurt someone walking in the neighborhood. 

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A local building is deteriorating fast from the roof to the basement, and neighbors are worried. Businesses that neighbor the former Palace nightclub, at 601 Blondeau St, Keokuk, are worried that the 105-year-old building will continue to drop bricks, glass and siding that could hurt someone walking in the neighborhood. 

More >>

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QU to announce financial plan amid state budget shortfall