Thomas resumes Brown Bag dialogue

Thomas resumes Brown Bag dialogue

Matthew Armour, Courier Staff

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With aspirations to keep communication open amongst faculty, staff and students, Western Illinois University president Jack Thomas hosted his second Brown Bag Lunch Conversation, promoting an open forum and honest communication within the Western community.

 “Brown Bag conversations provide us with another informal opportunity to communicate,” Thomas said. “I invited members of our University community, as well as our local community, to bring their lunch to the Brattain Lounge on Nov. 15 and enjoy a casual hour of conversation and fellowship.” 

 The theme for this week’s Brown Bag conversations was communication and a desire to create a partnership between the University union and administration in regards to financial reporting.

 “I was wondering if it would be possible for representatives from the Union and the Administration to meet ahead of time to present a set of generally agreed upon figures that would be informative to faculty members,“ said English professor Bill Knox.

 Thomas responded, agreeing that faculty members play a pivotal role at the university and will be essential during budget negotiations.

“I’m sure we can, I don’t see any problem in doing that,” Thomas said. “We had our budget director come to the faculty senate to talk about the budget, who has also come to those sessions in the Union, which is the faculty union, and the university administration and presented them financial figures before.”

 Moving forward, another topic of discussion that Thomas spearheaded was the financial reserve and how to properly distribute the money.

“There were times when the state did not come through with funding. Every institution, every business should have a reserve,” Thomas said. “We had it in place so we could float the state. There were times before the budget impasse that the state didn’t come through. We had to use that reserve.

 According to Thomas, the nature of his Brown Bag dialogues is to inform the general public and concerned members of the community and allow self-expression. Thomas also stressed the importance of payroll and how detrimental it is to the University’s reputation when payroll is not met.

“We have an obligation to meet payroll, and when you do not meet payroll, that really says a whole lot about your institution,” Thomas said “If you don’t get a paycheck then these people are going to be all out and so you have to make payroll.” 

 La’India Cooper, President of the Black Student Association raised questions about student attendance and enrollment at Western.

 “My biggest concern as being a student here is future enrollment is looking as far as numbers because I feel like if numbers go up as far as enrollment, everyone can get a raise,” Cooper said. “This question lead to a general discussion of bringing welcome receptions and trying to attract more students to campus ahead of the FAFSA opening October 1.

 If you have a question or concern about something within the Western Illinois community, come visit President Thomas and his Brown bag lunch discussions in the Union’s Brattain Lounge.

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via Western Courier

November 17, 2017 at 12:31PM

Thomas resumes Brown Bag dialogue

Guest View: Federal tax reform bill will harm college students

Illinois college students and their families need a high-quality, affordable education now more than ever. Our private colleges and universities have worked hard to provide that quality education at an affordable — and increasingly competitive — price in recent years. But that progress faces a serious threat from Washington.

As the state has made historic funding cuts in the last decade, private campuses across Illinois have invested in students by controlling costs in many ways, seeking alternative ways to generate revenues to provide the high-quality education students need, and streamlining programs to provide more value for students’ investment.

These actions are in response to the needs of the students and families we serve. And in part, these actions address the call from lawmakers to slow down the increasing cost of higher education while still providing access to a college or university that best fits an individual student’s needs.

Now Congress, through its recently unveiled tax reform bill proposal, threatens to throw up additional roadblocks that threaten the financial stability of private nonprofit colleges and universities and their ability to serve students.

One ominous proposal would place a tax on private college endowments. The earnings from endowments, along with private fundraising and other institutional revenues, have long provided scholarships to students as well as base funding for academic programs. Cutting this revenue will decrease funding for needy students and increase the costs to offer programs. In Illinois alone, private colleges and universities annually contribute more than $1 billion in institutional aid, enabling tens of thousands of students to achieve a college degree. Taxing endowments makes little sense if our goal is to increase college participation.

Another part of the proposal would eliminate employer-provided education assistance, which provides much-needed assistance to working students by incentivizing employers to provide tuition assistance benefits. Most recipients of this benefit are non-traditional students trying to improve their skills and workplace mobility. Colleges, businesses and labor organizations all support this important benefit that allows employers to invest in their workforce, while allowing employees the ability to advance their education and experience.

If also enacted, the elimination of tax-exempt bonds for private colleges and universities could significantly raise the cost of capital projects, at a time when the need for infrastructure improvements and safety upgrades (many mandated by government) are greatly needed. This type of bond financing for nonprofits, which meets significant post-issuance disclosure and compliance requirements, is a proven tool with a decades-long record of success for providing vital public services and creating jobs. Low-cost access to capital helps keep private colleges and universities strong, enabling us to keep expenditures low so we can focus on the work we do for the public good and the students and families that we serve.

And there are other provisions that benefit students and institutions that are the target of new taxation. One of these include removing the student loan interest deduction, incredibly important as students start their careers and begin repaying student loans. Another is taxing employee tuition and dependent benefits, which help retain talented staff and would hurt the lowest-paid college employees the most.

A top goal of tax reform should be to support college students and the institutions they attend, not hurt them. Illinois private colleges and universities have a long commitment to providing educational services for the common good. As students succeed, so does our economy and state. Targeting private colleges and universities in this bill could have severe long term consequences, and further deters our national and state goals of having 60 percent of our adults holding some college credential by 2025. Congress should seek ways to encourage the American dream, not shatter it.

David W. Tretter is president of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities

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via Opinion – The State Journal-Register

November 16, 2017 at 08:18PM

Guest View: Federal tax reform bill will harm college students

WIU President Calls for Increased Investment in Public Higher Education – Western Illinois University News

WIU President Calls for Increased Investment in Public Higher Education

November 16, 2017

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Dear University Community,

After a budget impasse that persisted over two years, the state of Illinois passed a Fiscal Year 2018 budget on July 6, 2017. Prior to this most recent budget, significantly decreased state appropriated dollars were allocated to Illinois public higher education institutions for two consecutive years. This lack of adequate funding resulted in a ripple effect that continues to impact our regional public institutions.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the state of Illinois decreased higher education funding per student by 54 percent from 2008 to 2016 (a decrease of $3,479 per student). From 2015 to 2016 alone, Illinois support per higher education student dropped 37.1 percent.

Our leaders in this state must realize the value and necessity of regional public universities. We have done our part and have been frugal and careful stewards of the public funds that we receive. As a result of the impasse and dwindling state support, faculty and staff at Western have weathered significant salary decreases and dealt with the effects of other substantial cuts. We appreciate our employees’ many sacrifices. We all have sacrificed a great deal, from forgoing salary increases to decreasing salaries via furloughs and voluntary pay reductions, to taking on additional responsibilities and workloads to counteract reductions in funding. We have eliminated programs and reduced services across the University. We have done our share to ensure that the limited resources on hand are protected. Without consistent support from our state, we continue to be forced to make decisions to conform to the lack of adequate and predictable funding.

Now is the time for a full state appropriated budget of $62 million for Western to support our students, classrooms, employees, programs, and infrastructure. This funding is critical to maintain the University, including funding for faculty and staff salaries and operations. We must remain competitive in our efforts to recruit and retain world-class faculty and staff, as well as outstanding students. If we want our students, faculty and staff to remain in the state, and if we want to provide exemplary social and intellectual capital to rebuild Illinois’ economy, the state must fund regional public higher education institutions, which provide outstanding educational opportunities and career preparation to students in our region, across the state, and throughout the world.

In addition to our state appropriated budget request, we are requesting full MAP funding of $11 million for our students, $2 million to support student financial aid, $7.5 million for salaries and operations, $4 million for critical deferred maintenance projects, and $357.6 million for capital development projects. These funds are critical in order for Western to remain competitive and to continue to provide optimal services to this region. We will also continue to advocate for the release of the previously approved funding to construct the Center for Performing Arts, for which we have already held two groundbreaking ceremonies.

We are doing our part in terms of raising private support and investments for the University, but we also need the state of Illinois to restore confidence in public higher education by investing in our institution. It is time for Illinois’ leaders to demonstrate to the state, and the nation, that the State of Illinois is willing to invest in the next generation through public higher education. Illinois’ students are this state’s greatest assets and resources. We must invest in our state’s future, and this begins with ensuring access to public higher education, which is a proven path to upward mobility and a prosperous state.

In sum, an increased investment in public higher education is not an option. It is an absolute imperative.


Jack Thomas

Posted By: WIU News (
Office of University Relations

WIU President Calls for Increased Investment in Public Higher Education – Western Illinois University News

Editorial: Adult education changing and will impact future jobs

Not everyone can be a rocket scientist and not everyone can be an auto mechanic. But the training opportunities for both — and everything in between — are part of a new focus by the Illinois Community College Board.

A statewide task force on adult education and literacy is expected to complete its report by Jan. 31, looking at what works, what doesn’t, what can be improved and what can be added to the state’s community college pipeline.

And, not surprisingly, some of the changes need to address workplace skills like resume writing, interviewing, communication and time management. Without them, even the best-trained student will find it difficult to land a job in the field of his or her choice. But the task force also is expected to look at public-private partnerships, skills training specific to a local field, and long-term careers rather than just short-term jobs.

Take, for example, a fast-food worker. On-the-job training can provide the knowledge about how to punch a cash register; more training and the ability to communicate, or “upsell” a meal, could mean a better-paying job as a server at a sit-down restaurant. A talented cook might look beyond that to the possibility of working for an upscale caterer, teaching a class, or opening his or her own cafe. Each transition to higher success requires more training in business, math, marketing, human resources and communication in addition to skills for the primary job.

“Adult education isn’t about getting students a high school equivalency certificate anymore. It’s about preparing them for training programs that can get them good jobs,” task force Chairwoman Karen Hunter Anderson, executive director of the ICCB, recently told The Pantagraph.

At Heartland Community College, for instance, the Integrated Career and Academic Preparation System lets students take some academic courses at the same time they are taking preparation courses for their high school equivalency degree.

“The whole culture of adult education has shifted and I think it’s wonderful,” said Kerry Urquizo, director of adult education at Heartland. 

Today’s community colleges offer a wide variety of classes, seminars and training not just for students but for community members of all ages. The colleges work with local businesses to provide specialized help (witness HCC’s veterans program, or its transition program for Mitsubishi workers) and learning for everyone.

The task force report could carry a strong message to state lawmakers, education leaders and the business community. Let’s hope the results pay off sooner rather than later.

Editorial: Adult education changing and will impact future jobs

Illinois’ teacher shortage starts at college

Illinois’ teacher shortage starts at college

The shortage of teachers in Illinois’ high schools and elementary schools has its roots in the state’s colleges and universities.

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via News/Talk 94.7 & 970 WMAY – Depend On Us

November 15, 2017 at 07:04PM

Illinois’ teacher shortage starts at college

Olsen Announces Retirement

A long career in coaching and teaching is about to end. Paul Olson, track and cross country coach at Augustana College, has announced he’ll retire next spring.

He started in 1966 as head coach of the men’s cross country team, and recently concluded his 52nd season. The upcoming track and field season will be his 50th.

Olson is also a professor of English at Augustana, teaching classes in African American Literature and the “Sacred and Profane.” And has been chosen by 15 senior classes to give what’s called the “Last Lecture” before graduation.  

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via WVIK Podcasts

November 15, 2017 at 11:17AM

Olsen Announces Retirement

IL Comptroller visits SIU to speak on budget

IL Comptroller visits SIU to speak on budget

(Source: KFVS)
(Source: KFVS)


The Illinois Comptroller visited Southern Illinois University to talk with students about some of what she’s been able to accomplish regarding the Illinois state Budget.

Susana Mendoza said she’s had a busy fiscal year. Not only has she been using proceeds from the recent General Obligation bond sale to pay down a huge portion of the state’s unpaid bills, she was also able to override Bruce Rauner’s veto of the Debt Transparency act.

“For me I feel grateful having this relief after having worked very hard to convince the governor to finally to finally do it but we are here,” Mendoza said. “Its one step in the right direction, debt transparency another step in the right direction. there are many more steps in the right direction but I’d be happy to lead the way.”

Mendoza has been the Illinnois Comptroller since last year.

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via KFVS – KFVS12 Home

November 14, 2017 at 10:52PM

IL Comptroller visits SIU to speak on budget