Tom Kacich: University presidents help make sense of nonsense

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Kudos to the public university presidents in Illinois who have become so good at debunking the bunk politicians are spewing.

A couple of examples from last week:

— Gov. Duct Tape says it upsets him to see so many Illinoisans leave the state to attend college, but he hasn’t done much about it except to propose a phony, unbalanced budget while hitting Democrats for supporting phony, unbalanced budgets.

Increasing money to the Monetary Award Program that helps low-income students attend college would help the state in many ways, said Illinois State University President Larry Dietz.

“We had a net loss of 16,000 students last fall who went to school out of state. An enhancement of the MAP program might have kept some of those folks in state,” said Dietz. “Imagine if we kept just half of those 16,000 students. Just think what 8,000 students would have done for all the institutions in the state. 16,000 who left means conservatively $10,00 in tuition and fees that is crossing the state line. That’s $160 million a year.”

The bigger loss, he said, isn’t financial.

“The biggest issue around the leaving is the human capital and the intellectual capacity that those individuals take with them. If you go out of state you reduce dramatically the probability that person returning in state to start their business, serve a not for profit, whatever that might be. You may never get that human capacity back. That to me is the worst part of all of this.”

— The governor says we need procurement reform and other changes in higher education before we can talk about increasing funding.

Dietz cited examples of how procurement reform would help his institution, but he questioned whether it would save much money. The governor and some Republicans have pegged the savings at $500 million a year.

“I don’t know that procurement reform ultimately will save a ton of money. There have been estimates as to what it might save but those are only estimates and I don’t think any of us know,” said Dietz.

“Ultimately it could save us some money because we won’t have so many staff involved in that process on our campus. But I do know we would be more efficient and we would be more on time and it would be a better way of doing business.”

— Gov. Duct Tape says we have to “grow the economy” with all his reforms including term limits, an idea that even his allies acknowledge has nothing to with fixing the economy.

Eastern Illinois University President Davis Glassman, without referring to the governor by name, said there “has been much talk of growth needing to be a major element” of the changes the state needs.

“EIU agrees wholeheartedly and we would point out that our greatest opportunity for growth as a state will be through supporting the personal growth of our more than 12 million residents,” as in improving Illinois by investing in Illinoisans, he said.

“We take students from all backgrounds and circumstances and help them identify where they can make the most significant contributions,” said Glassman. “We then train them and arm them with the analytical skills necessary to improve not only their own circumstances but those of their communities and beyond.”

Chris Kennedy endorsement

Iroquois County Democrats are already on board with former University of Illinois board chairman Chris Kennedy as their party’s nominee for governor in 2018.

The party’s central committee endorsed Kennedy last Tuesday — more than 11 months before the March 20 primary election.

“It was the initiative of the people on the committee,” said Dale Strough, party chairman. “Even though it is early in the campaign I think we have a pretty good idea of the field, who is running and the basic information and who we think is the best candidate.”

Strough said there was discussion about making the unusually early endorsement, “but in the end it was unanimously approved.”

Kennedy, a wealthy Kenilworth businessman and the son of Bobby Kennedy, has not met with the Iroquois County Democrats, Strough said.

Party functions

— Economist Stephen Moore, a graduate of the University of Illinois, will be the guest speaker at Wednesday’s Champaign County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

Moore is the distinguished visiting fellow at the Project for Economic Growth at The Heritage Foundation, and is a frequent television commentator.

He took a leave from the Heritage Foundation and worked on the Trump campaign last year and will talk about his time on the campaign trail and his thoughts on the Trump presidency.

Tickets for the event, which begins at 6 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign, are $60 for dinner or $120 for dinner and a VIP reception.

— Champaign County Democrats will hold a spring luncheon beginning at 1 p.m. April 30 at the I-Hotel in Champaign.

Democratic Party Chair Maryam Ar-Raheem said only one speaker is confirmed — 13th Congressional District candidate David Gill — but that she’s hoping a number of Democratic gubernatorial candidates and any other congressional contenders show as well.

“Everything right now is tentative,” she said.

Tickets for the event are now $37.50, but increase to $50 after Monday.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Sunday and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at kacich@news-gazette.com.

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Tom Kacich: University presidents help make sense of nonsense

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