Guest View: Investment needed to improve higher education in Illinois

The Democratic and Republican primaries are over, thankfully, for many of us. But as the candidates transition into a new gear of spending and inundating us with numbers and claims about each other, we should be closely watching what’s happening to our state’s higher education system.

We cannot escape the reality facing Illinois: People are leaving, in droves. The more our political leaders fight, the more uncertainty and angst is created, and the easier it is for talented workers and their families to find somewhere else to call home.

The same holds true for our college and university students, and sadly, it has for some time. As our state grinds further into fiscal disaster, what’s left behind is a sad tale of exodus:

* In 2002, 29 percent of our college-going high school graduates enrolled out of state. By 2016, that number had grown to 46 percent — nearly half of eligible Illinois high school grads choosing to go anywhere but Illinois for college.

* In 2011, almost 880,000 students were enrolled in Illinois higher education. Just five years later, in 2016, that number had dropped by 100,000 students, or nearly a 12 percent drop.

Why are our college students fleeing? Higher education critics, from policymakers to parents, will claim the cost is too high and our campuses haven’t adapted quickly enough to our ever-evolving economy. One other important number is critically important here: Once adjusted for inflation, state funding for higher education operations (not including pensions) has dropped by $1 billion over the last 15 years.

We cannot pretend that a significant disinvestment in our crown jewel of higher education has not contributed to the challenges of cost, innovation and, most important, a growing perception that students can fare better elsewhere. These draconian cuts, to both student aid and institutions, have created a de facto policy that encouraged our best and brightest to leave. And with every student that leaves — almost 170,000 of them over that five-year period — it should be no surprise that our Illinois higher education rankings slipped from the top to the middle of the pack.

Understand the practical and wide-reaching effects of the exodus of college students. Many college-aged students who do come here from other states for their degrees are just visiting. We don’t have the warm weather of Florida, or the mountain hiking of Colorado, or the lure that other states can offer. So if we cannot keep our students here, and we lose others who graduate and head back home, where will we get our next generation of nurses and doctors, classroom teachers, and skilled engineers to plan our roads and infrastructure?

Our high-quality system of community colleges and public and private universities provide many wonderful choices for Illinois residents now, guides them through completing a degree at nationally high rate, and could do so much more if state government embraced the possibilities instead of thwarting them. The 2.5-year budget stalemate, where higher education was a primary victim, provided a window into the harm done to our students and our institutions.

Illinois colleges and universities employ 175,000 Illinoisans and produce an annual economic benefit of $50 billion, far more return on the state’s investment of less than $2 billion. Our campuses outperform virtually any other area of state investment because of outside private and federal investment, further driven by the high priority businesses place on developing and utilizing a skilled workforce when they invest and locate here.

We need a statewide comprehensive road map for improving higher education that recognizes we have helped create this problem, and can only turn it around through real investment and improved performance. I’m encouraged a bipartisan group of legislators has come together to work on this road map. My challenge to all of our leaders is to make higher education a priority on the campaign trail and at the Capitol, and not just a talking point in the latest ad buy.

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

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Region: Springfield,Feeds,Opinion,Region: Central,City: Springfield

via Opinion – The State Journal-Register

April 10, 2018 at 08:16PM

Guest View: Investment needed to improve higher education in Illinois

U of I officials seek increased state funding

Though the state’s two-year state budget impasse has long lifted, the damage it caused to the reputation of the state’s universities has lingered, University of Illinois officials said Thursday.

To help stem that tide, system President Timothy Killeen and chancellors from all three campuses advocated for an increase in their annual state appropriation before an Illinois Senate committee.

That extra money would help retain faculty, keep student costs down and restore financial stability to the university after an uncertain few years.

“We want to be part of the state’s solution to the challenges that we all face,” said University of Illinois Executive Vice President Barbara Wilson. “We know that the finances are certainly a challenge, but we believe investing in the University of Illinois will help the state overall.”

The university system — which includes campuses in Chicago, Urbana and Springfield — is seeking $681 million in appropriations from the state. This is an increase from $583 million in the budget year that ended last June and $650 million in the year that ends this June. And it is much more than the $588 million Gov. Rauner proposed in his budget.

The bulk of the money would go toward retaining faculty, who have increasingly been the subject of recruitment efforts by other institutions.

“We know for a fact that Texas A&M and the University of Texas have a special fund set aside to go poach Illinois faculty,” Wilson said. “We’ve been told that by numerous individuals, including some of the faculty they’re going after. So, we do have a reputational challenge in front of us, and I think part of the challenge is that our peers think that we’re struggling and they are going to use that opportunity to try and attract talent away.”

Those efforts increased by nearly 40 percent during the budget impasse, Wilson said.

And though the university was able to keep most of their talent, “it’s a lot of energy, a lot of time, and a lot of money to counter these offers from other institutions,” Wilson said.

To retain faculty, Killeen said it was time to go on offense.

“Because of the budget impasse, we’ve taken a bit of a reputational hit in the last couple of years and we need to go back on the offense in terms of recruiting and retaining world-class scholars and talented researchers, so we’re seeking some support to do that,” he said.

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch called the request “very reasonable.”

“It has set high goals to grow all three of our campuses, including UIS, with the intent to make a University of Illinois degree even more accessible to Illinois residents,” Koch said. “And the appropriation is key to doing that.”

Though enrollment numbers at Springfield were down slightly this school year, Koch said she is encouraged by a 35 percent uptick in applications. She said the goal is to grow UIS by 1,000 students in the next few years.

“Solid financial support from the state is key to doing that,” Koch said.

In addition to the state appropriation, university officials also advocated for nearly $600 million in capital spending, hoping to reduce a backlog in projects that has grown over the years since the state’s last major capital construction program.

Specifically mentioned was the need for library renovations on all three campuses, including a more than $58 million facelift for Brookens Library at UIS.

According to Chuck Coderko, a UIS associate chancellor, the building is among the university’s top capital priorities should state funding free up.

Brookens opened in 1976 as the first major permanent building on the Springfield campus. Since, there have been few changes made to the building. A renovation would include electrical, mechanical and plumbing upgrades; more energy efficient features; new classroom spaces; and updated aesthetics.

Officials stressed importance of maintaining infrastructure, with Killeen even pointing to UIS’ new student union as an example of an investment that’s already paying off.

“We’re delighted with the new infrastructure component, the Student Union, which we think is helping us with recruitment,” Killeen said. “Those numbers — applications, admissions — are up. Things are looking strong, and we’re delighted with the progress at Springfield.”

Contact Brenden Moore: 782-3095,, @brendenmoore13.

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Region: Springfield,Feeds,News,Sang,Region: Central,City: Springfield

via News – The State Journal-Register

April 5, 2018 at 08:50PM

U of I officials seek increased state funding

U of I President: Freeze Tuition At Least 2 More Years

The University of Illinois president told a panel of lawmakers Thursday that he’d like to maintain a freeze on tuition rates.

Tim Killeen, president of the U. of I. system, spoke directly to state Sen. Dan McConchie, whose daughter received financial aid offers from other Big Ten universities, but not the U. of I.

Consequently, she’s joining thousands of other traditional college students moving out of state.

“Sen. McConchie, congratulations to your daughter for getting into Purdue,” Killeen said.

“But I can tell you we’re not going away — there’s always transfer opportunities,” he added, drawing laughs from the panel. “There’s graduate school as well.”

The U. of I. is asking for a significant budget increase — after a 10 percent cut this year — in part to fund scholarships the university hopes will help lure Illinois students to stay in-state.

“We are making inroads on being cost-competitive with our Midwest competitors,” Killeen said, attributing that partly to a four-year tuition freeze.

“We’re talking about maybe middle-class families, who maybe have multiple siblings who go to college. And these are expensive — these are expensive opportunities,” he said.

Killeen wants to keep tuition frozen for at least another two years.

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Region: Springfield,Feeds,Sang,Politics,Region: Central,City: Springfield

via Brian Mackey | NPR Illinois

April 5, 2018 at 05:50PM

U of I President: Freeze Tuition At Least 2 More Years

SIUC Faculty Senate Executive Council Pens Letter to SIU Trustees

A constituency group at SIU-Carbondale is fighting back against a proposal to change the allocation of state funding between the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses. The executive council of the SIU-C Faculty Senate has sent a letter to the SIU Board of Trustees urging members to deny a plan that would give SIU-Edwardsville an additional five-million dollars for Fiscal Year 2019.

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April 5, 2018 at 05:21PM

SIUC Faculty Senate Executive Council Pens Letter to SIU Trustees

BOT considers $5 million more for SIUE next year

The SIU System may be giving $5.125 million more in funds to SIUE for the 2019 fiscal year.

An item called “Authorization for the Phase I Reallocation of Appropriation Budget, SIUC and SIUE” was added to next Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting agenda.

The argument presented in the agenda says, historically, SIUE was given 36% of funds, while SIUC was given 64%, which has generally matched up with the enrollment rates between the two colleges.

However, in recent years SIUE has continued to grow while SIUC’s enrollment has begun to slip. As of now, the two universities’ enrollment are within 2 percent of one another, with SIUE   having 13,796 students in 2017 to Carbondale’s 14,184.

While the suggested changes will not allocate funds strictly in line with enrollment rates, the Board of Trustee’s meeting agenda said that it “does not seem prudent for SIUC to experience a reallocation of the full appropriation amount in one year” due to their current financial struggles and ongoing reorganization plans.

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April 4, 2018 at 11:59PM

BOT considers $5 million more for SIUE next year

Why I won’t go to college in Illinois

I couldn’t agree more with your editorial “Illinois Exodus: Flight of the expats.” As an 18-year-old who is about to embark on my endeavors as an adult, I too am fleeing Illinois for many of the same reasons as the families you interviewed.

The first is college tuition, cited by the Carpenter family. I am one of the only people I know who did not apply to University of Illinois or any Illinois school for that matter. The Illinois school system is broke and gives very little merit aid to in-state residents.

Second, after graduating college, I do not want to pay the expensive property taxes in Illinois. I will not want to pay those outrageous rates with a relatively small income after college, especially when I’ll also have to purchase a car, a home, and pay back student loans. How is a young professional ever supposed to buy a home and settle down in Illinois with these taxes?

Lastly, state politics is a deal breaker for me. The Heard family touched on this a little too. I cannot stand to sit back and be swindled by House Speaker Michael Madigan. I do not want to spend the rest of my life where power-hungry politicians are hurting honest politicians and hardworking citizens. It is not right, and I will not fall victim to it.

I really appreciate this editorial. I think it sheds light on many issues that should be addressed in the upcoming election. I hope that this exodus will send a message to politicians of Illinois that from young (like me) to old (like the people you interviewed), we are unhappy with our state.

— Abbie Lukas, Mundelein

Submit a letter to the editor here or email

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Courts,Region: Suburbs,Region: N Suburbs,City: Evanston

via Evanston Crime – Evanston Review

April 4, 2018 at 03:15PM

Why I won’t go to college in Illinois

Other View: SIU should shift resources to Edwardsville campus

Belleville News-Democrat

Southern Illinois University Carbondale for decades was the star of the local higher education system, with lots of doctoral programs, 42 academic departments, a large resident student population, football and the other trappings of a “real” university.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville was the red-headed step-child. A commuter school, then a mix of commuters and residents, but never quite gaining the lofty academic reputation of its southern parent institution.

It’s time for a re-assessment and reality check.

SIUC is in free fall: Enrollment dropped 9 percent in the fall. But the scary number was freshman enrollment, which took a nearly 20 percent hit and indicates more bad news is to come. Total enrollment was 14,554, which is down by one third from 15 years ago.

SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno sees the problem and is trying to push a massive reorganization, but the organization is pushing back hard. He’s been under fire for getting his family hired and getting the university to pay for their moves to Carbondale, a scandal that is effectively depleting his authority and ability to carry out the reorganization.

The rice bowls are protected, but will SIUC be able to fix itself? Will it again be able to attract those Chicago kids down to the Shawnee Forest? Odds are not in its favor, especially as our unreliable state continues making tuition the only revenue they can control, rising so fast that students look elsewhere for a better deal.

SIUE has been on an upward trajectory, to the point that the two campuses are nearly even in enrollment. But when it comes to money? They are very uneven.

Carbondale’s total operating budget is $488 million. Edwardsville’s is $292 million. Break it down, and SIUC spends $33,541 per student compared to SIUE spending $21,172.

Inequity is also seen in the student-to-faculty ratios, with SIUC at 15 to 1 and SIUE at 17 to 1. By comparison, the University of Illinois is 20 to 1 and Mizzou is 19 to 1.

The Carbondale financial behemoth was underscored when it blew through $83 million in reserves and had to go to its younger sibling and ask to borrow $35 million. That brought out the Edwardsville faculty decrying the state funding split of 70 percent for SIUC to 30 percent for SIUE that has existed for decades, although the SIU president contended it was more like 60-40. In terms of operating budgets it is a 63-37 split.

It’s time for SIU’s Board of Trustees to face the new reality and make some changes.

Edwardsville sits in the heart of a metropolitan area with a need for workforce training and a growing innovation and entrepreneurial district. There is a major military installation nearby that draws bright young people with a strong work ethic, security clearances and continuing education needs.

Past calls to split up the SIU system were wrong because they would create duplicate, inefficient overhead. Illinois needs reorganization and consolidation at all government levels, and the better direction would be for SIU to join another state university system.

But the SIU system can reorganize internally. Rather than just the Carbondale campus looking at a reorganization, the whole system needs to be revamped. The services and dollars need to be placed where the students and the opportunity are, not where administrators hope to find them.

You can dump a whole lot of money into SIUC and hope it returns to its former glory, or you can finally fund SIUE in a fair manner and invest in a campus with a much more promising potential for growth.

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April 4, 2018 at 04:51PM

Other View: SIU should shift resources to Edwardsville campus