Lawmakers can’t fix Illinois’ universities alone

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The Tribune’s editorial on higher education was surprising in its demand to unify the Illinois state university system for the sake of collaboration; the usual conservative mantra is that free-market-style competition among schools (i.e., school choice) is the key to improving education and driving down costs. As a professor at Northeastern Illinois University, I believe our state universities would be open to new system-wide changes to streamline operations and reduce costs. However, there would be two important conditions.

First, university administrators, faculty, and staff must be part of the decision-making process; we know first-hand what the problems are and the likely consequences of proposed changes. Few, if any, politicians or affluent entrepreneurs have experience running a university. Simply having gone to college, or having a child in college, does not make someone an expert on higher education. The Tribune editorial was packed with bad ideas (e.g., campus specializations, which has been devastating to City Colleges) and overly simplistic understandings of universities (e.g., that a university has complete control over how many students graduate within six years, whatever the nature of its student population).

Second, our legislators must make a commitment to adequate funding for state universities. Since the year 2000, funding to Illinois universities has been cut by 41 percent. Gov. Bruce Rauner has complained that tuition at our state universities is too high — that’s because funding has been so deeply slashed! It’s a simple correlation. In addition, Rauner’s charge of administrative bloat also reveals his ignorance of the realities of higher education in Illinois. At NEIU, we were cut to the bone years ago; now we’re cutting into bone. This is a matter of public record.

We all agree that a well-educated population is vital to the health of Illinois. To achieve this, we must work together to make positive changes to our university system. Equally important, the wealthy and powerful in our state must step up and pay their fair share in taxes for the common good.

— April Nauman, professor of education, Northeastern Illinois University

01-All No Sub,02-Pol,12-Coll,16-Econ,HE Blog,HE Coalition

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via Letters – Chicago Tribune http://ift.tt/1BmqHoD

April 10, 2017 at 08:30AM

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Lawmakers can’t fix Illinois’ universities alone

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