Illinois universities lift activity · Articles · Global University Venturing

Students and faculty from Illinois universities founded 942 companies through the five fiscal years ending 2016-2017, more than double that recorded between 2009 and 2013, according to an Illinois Science & Technology Coalition report.

Of these, 73.9% remain in business, with another 11 businesses securing acquisitions and approximately 25% ceasing operations.

Illinois’s university-supported startups generated a record $877.5m in capital during the period reported.

The report attributed much of the success to non-tech transfer businesses – startups that have not licensed university-owned intellectual property, such as student-founded businesses from entrepreneurship centres. Nearly 800 of these startups launched between 2013 and 2017, an annual increase of 28% over the course of the period.

Illinois institutions also made headway on female representation, with 28% of Illinois university-supported startups featuring a woman on the founding team, compared with 17% nationwide. An estimated 40% of the startups have a foreign-born founder.

The state’s tech transfer licences generated $287m in revenue during 2016, an increase on the previous year, with 3.5% of the licences bringing in more than $1m, compared with 3.1% on average nationwide.

However, Illinois fared less well on tech transfer growth metrics.

The universities secured 241 patents during 2016, for example, enough to rank 10th in the US, but the metric’s compound average growth rate of 3% for 2012-2016 substantially trailed the national average of 8.3%.


Illinois universities lift activity · Articles · Global University Venturing

Tom Kacich | Parkland president stumping for nursing-degree bill

Controversial legislation pitting two-year community colleges in Illinois against four-year universities is scheduled for a return trip to the Senate Higher Education Committee this week.

Tom Ramage, president of Parkland College in Champaign, will be among the chief proponents of legislation that would permit community colleges to offer four-year baccalaureate degrees in nursing.

The bill (SB 888) suffered a setback in the committee last May, although that was a different version. That measure would have restricted the initiative to 11 community colleges — among them Parkland and Lincoln Land in Springfield — and to no more than 7,000 students. The original version of the bill permitted as many as 20 community colleges to offer a four-year nursing degree.

Under this newest version, the limitations are off.

“It removes all restrictions on how many community colleges can have the program. There’s no limitation, which is interesting,” Ramage said.

And he’s fine with that.

“If I were a legislator, I would be the sponsor,” he said. “I do know there was concern among the community colleges that (11) would be severely limiting. There were more than that number who were very interested.”

Last year, the same committee voted down a different version of the bill 8-7. The two local senators on the panel, Democrat Scott Bennett of Champaign and Republican Chapin Rose of Mahomet, cancelled out each other’s vote. Bennett voted for it; Rose was opposed.

Bennett said last week that he needed to review the new proposal before making a commitment. Rose said he’s interested in the legislation and the issue but that he thinks it ought to be part of a broader plan for administering higher education in Illinois, something a bipartisan higher education working group of legislators is reviewing.

Ramage said he didn’t know what kind of a reception the bill would get this time around.

“I don’t know if it will get out of committee. But we’re working it very hard,” he said.

And he’s going to work for it doggedly, he pledged.

“As long as I’m working we’re going to have a bill every year until it gets done. Perhaps it’s this year. If not, it will be the next and the next after that,” Ramage said, “I think it’s the very formulation of a great plan for higher ed, especially community colleges and how well we can serve our communities.”

Last year, opposition to the measure came from public and private four-year universities, in particular Southern Illinois University and its president, Randy Dunn.

“If we cross this line in providing the authority for bachelor’s degrees at community colleges,” Dunn said, “we’re at a point where we will be changing statutory, operational history and the structure of how Illinois public higher education was envisioned.”

He said that 35 higher education institutions already had nursing programs and could expand their capacity to meet the perceived need.

But supporters of the four-year degree at community colleges said that students needed a more affordable option, one that was closer to their homes.

Spoerer debt

Carl Spoerer, the rural Mahomet man who sought the Democratic nomination in the 15th Congressional District last month, has terminated his campaign fund, essentially taking on a nearly $13,000 debt left over from the campaign.

Spoerer, who lost the Democratic nomination to Kevin Gaither of Charleston, reported $18,131 in contributions during the campaign, although more than two-thirds ($12,774) was from himself. He spent $15,743 in his unsuccessful campaign.

Coincidentally, the man whose job he wanted — veteran U.S. Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville — last week reported having a little more than $1 million in his campaign fund on March 31.

Shimkus, who was unopposed in the Republican primary, has reported $1.23 million in campaign contributions this election cycle. Of that sum, $1.11 million — or more than 90 percent — has come from political action committees.

Frerichs opponent

Jim Dodge, the Orland Park village trustee who is the Republican candidate for state treasurer, reported $15,353 in his campaign fund on March 31.

Dodge will oppose State Treasurer Mike Frerichs, a Champaign Democrat, in the November general election. At last count — Dec. 31, 2017 — Frerichs had more than $530,000 in his campaign fund. He’s reported another $258,000 in itemized contributions since.

Dodge raised $35,207 in the first three months of 2018 and spent $27,822 during the period. He was unopposed in the Republican primary.

So far, he has loaned his campaign almost $28,000. He hasn’t received any campaign support from the Illinois Republican Party or Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at

Tom Kacich | Parkland president stumping for nursing-degree bill

Students Meet with State Lawmakers on Lobby Day

McKendree University students participated in the annual Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities student lobby day at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on April 12.

To view these students click here:

Students Meet with State Lawmakers on Lobby Day

Taxpayer Costs Soared as Illinois Public College & University Enrollment Dropped

A woman walks on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana, Ill. (AP Photo/David Mercer, File)

There’s no question – there’s something wrong with Illinois higher education. While enrollments trended downward, pay and pension benefits spiked upward. Soon, some Illinois colleges may have more staffers than students.

In 2016, the freshman class enrollment at Chicago State University numbered just 86 incoming students. Meanwhile, the university employed 980 staffers. Even after the ratio was exposed, the numbers haven’t sustainably improved. In 2017, just 145 freshmen enrolled at Chicago State, but the university payroll shows 660 employees costing nearly $40 million.

For the last two decades, Illinois’s public colleges and universities vastly increased the cost of their payrolls and lavished extraordinary lifetime pension payouts – but the institutions have yet to see a measurable increase in students. Quite to the contrary, enrollments decreased by nearly 8 percent over the last 17 years.

Review our college-by-college enrollment analysis (2000-2016), click here.

Illinois Colleges and Universities with the Largest Enrollment Drops (2000-2016).

Our auditors at reviewed disclosed data since the year 2000. Consider our key findings:

  • Plummeting student enrollment. In 2000, Illinois public college and university enrollment was 534,615. By 2016, enrollment had fallen to 493,378. That’s a 7.7 percent drop.
  • Massive Payroll and Pension Costs. Illinois higher-ed payroll in year 2000 was $2.8 billion. Today, current payroll costs $4.2 billion. But that doesn’t include 46,430 employees in 2000 who since retired and currently draw $1.8 billion in annual pension payments. These new retirees represent a heavy legacy cost on the underfunded system supported by tax dollars.
  • 13,300 Highly Compensated Educators Making $100,000+. Active, working educators comprise less than 9,700 of the 13,300 six-figure educators. The other 3,700 are retired, enjoying six-figure pension payouts.

Review the all-time Illinois higher education retirement pension payouts, click here.

*Career Wages is the amount of compensation employees received over their entire career.
**Total Pension Contributions is the amount an employee paid into their own pension over their entire career.

This gross lack of accountability – and the decoupling of pay and pension compensation from the real work – is not a new issue for Illinois higher education. Here are three historic examples of taxpayer abuse:

  • The fourth all-time college pension went to Ron Guenther, the former athletic director at the University of Illinois. Guenther retired in 2011 after bumping his salary from $330,000 (2003) to $608,000 (2010). Last year, Guenther received a $487,287 pension payout – that’s more than $40,000 every month.
  • Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar double-dipped the Illinois General Assembly pension ($166,000 per year), the State University Retirement System pension ($83,000 per year), and, currently, is hired back ‘part-time’ by the University of Illinois for another $62,796 per year. In total? More than $311,000 per year.
  • Retired Moraine Valley Community College President Vernon Crawley’s salary bumped from $202,709 (2001) to $673,000 in his final year (2011). In his sixth year of retirement, Crawley enjoyed a $383,260 annual pension payment (2017) – that’s nearly $32,000 per month.

Illinois income taxpayers are slammed with these excessive state college and university retirements because colleges have no skin in the game. Universities don’t have to fund these pensions – employees pay in eight percent of their salary and literally leave the rest to the taxpayers. This year, there were 33 pensions that exceeded $300,000 – some of those retirees “broke-even” on their own cost-basis pension contributions after just 11 months in retirement.

The University of Illinois campuses in Chicago and Champaign-Urbana are the worst offenders for putting taxpayers on the line to fund their pricey operations despite $2.1 billion in financial assets amassed by the University of Illinois Foundation.

The University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) paid its 14,282 employees more than $1 billion in compensation last year, including nine out of the top 10 most highly compensated employees in the system. The University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana paid six-figure compensation to more than 2,050 employees. Brad Underwood – the University of Illinois basketball coach hired in March 2017 is the most highly compensated employee funded by taxpayers ($680,675). (Football coach Lovie Smith enjoys a six-year, $21-million contract plus $8 million in potential bonuses – but taxpayers fund just $111,571 of it annually.)

Consider these examples of recent retirees whose salary hikes ensured padded lifetime pension payouts:

  • Paula Meares had served as chancellor of UIC for six years when board members decided to replace her. In her final year as chancellor, Meares’ salary spiked from $426,272 (2014) to $475,931 (2015). In 2016, Meares made another $410,000 and received a bonus for nearly $100,000 on her way out the door. In 2017, Meares received her first pension payout for more than $250,000.
  • Before retiring as the director of UIC Center for Global Health, Timothy Erickson’s salary shot from $465,688 (2014) to $491,118 (2015). In 2016, Erickson pulled down another $476,512. In 2017, Erickson received a $214,704 pension payout – but he wasn’t ‘retired.’ Erickson continued his career as a core faculty member at Harvard and an emergency medicine physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
  • A trio of University of Illinois professors retired in 2016 after substantial end-of-career salary increases. Former psychology professor Brian Ross’s salary spiked from $245,626 (2014) to $290,605 (2016). John Colombo, former law professor, saw his paycheck increase from $248,855 (2014) to $333,446 (2015). (Dr. Colombo’s salary hike was the result of taking an interim dean position at the College of Law, read Colombo’s full background and response here.) Former Dean of Faculty and business professor Gregory Northcraft’s salary bumped from $409,623 (2014) to $435,515 (2015). In their first year of retirement, each of them received more than $193,000 in pension payouts.

Review all Illinois higher education public employee salaries, click here.

Top 10 Illinois Higher Education Salaries (FY2017).

In Illinois, academic power couples can work together to game the system. The southern Illinois junior college power couple Dale Chapman ($466,840) and Linda Terrill Chapman ($223,809) combined for a $690,000 income at Lewis and Clark Community College last year. If you think they’re costly now, just imagine the ever-growing size of their pensions.

Other junior college presidents are also raking in huge paychecks: Christine Sobek at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove made $379,464; Thomas Ramage at Parkland College in Champaign made $285,130; Sylvia Jenkins at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills pulled down $271,825.

It’s not impossible to clean up the system. In 2014, we launched an oversight investigation on the College of DuPage. We exposed the president trying to procure a corrupted $20 million state construction grant and more than $100 million in hidden spending over a six-year period. Transparency worked – and there is a new day at the College of DuPage.

Holding Illinois universities accountable has proven effective. For example, after years of enrollment drops, Eastern Illinois University (EIU) faced a 14-percent budget cut resulting in at least 400 layoffs. This year, however, EIU President David Glassman told an Illinois House committee that the college expects a significantly bigger freshmen enrollment and the budget balanced.

Across the state, Illinois must use transparency and accountability to protect student tuition funds, taxpayers, and clean up their budgets. Until then, however, the student brain drain will continue. These highly paid educators aren’t attracting Illinois high school grads to their universities. On the contrary, since 2002, the percent of Illinois high school graduates choosing out-of-state colleges has skyrocketed from 29 percent to 46 percent.

High school grads are fleeing Illinois universities like they’re on fire – and they’re right. Illinois higher education is burning student and taxpayer money.

Adam Andrzejewski (say: Angie-eff-ski) is the CEO and Founder of Learn more: our comprehensive coverage of the 63,000 Illinois public officials earning more than $100,000 in FY2016 published at Forbes, click here.

Taxpayer Costs Soared as Illinois Public College & University Enrollment Dropped

Lawmaker proposes splitting up the SIU system

SPRINGFIELD — After Thursday’s vote against a plan to shift more money from SIUC to SIUE, a state lawmaker with ties to Edwardsville wants to split the two campuses.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville) has suggested the idea several times over the past couple decades, but he still feels the effort could win approval, especially in light of this week’s events.

Hoffman said he feels like SIUE doesn’t benefit much from being in the SIU system. He also feels like the two universities have different missions, and having different governing boards for each one will allow both to thrive.

Hoffman has filed similar legislation as recently as 2014.

His bills would essentially do two things: put SIU Edwardsville and the SIU School of Medicine under one umbrella and let SIU Carbondale have its own board.

It would also guarantee the two universities receive the same amount of money, not the 60-40 split it’s supposed to be currently.

Hoffman said that won’t cause SIUC to lose money.

“I would provide money to adequately fund the university systems, which would, I believe, not end up with SIU Carbondale losing money but both the universities would actually see an increase in the money,” Hoffman said.

Local lawmakers aren’t on board with the proposal.

“The timing is awful and it reeks a bit like a tantrum over what happened (Thursday),” State Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) said.

Bryant also said the move would hurt SIU’s research accreditation.

State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) and State Rep. Natalie Phelps Finnie (D-Elizabethtown) want more time to research the idea, but Schimpf also said in a statement he feels the two universities are better off in the same system.

State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) worries SIUC will lose more money under the proposal, which could be devastating to the community.

News 3 also reached out to SIU system president Randy Dunn. His spokesman told us he wants to wait a few days to respond.

Lawmaker proposes splitting up the SIU system

EIU opposes proposed Illinois bill on student debt

CHARLESTON — Students who owe money to public universities and community colleges in Illinois would not be prohibited from registering for classes under a proposed measure, and local higher education officials are worried.

The bill under consideration in Springfield also would permit students with a backlog of unpaid bills to receive student transcripts without protest from their institution. This could potentially increase enrollment rates at local state institutions like Eastern Illinois University, advocates said.

“We have a population of job seekers who need transcripts to show potential employers that they’re qualified for good-paying jobs,” said State Sen. Emil Jones III, D-Chicago, who proposed the legislation. “Without access to their transcripts, recent graduates are often skipped over and relegated to a situation where they can’t pay any outstanding debt to the school they graduated from.”

But the bill would create an “untenable business model” for state institutions, said EIU spokesman Joshua D. Reinhart.

For Eastern, this legislation is the equivalent of an “unfunded mandate,” said Paul McCann, vice president for business affairs. This legislation removes tools the university needs to collect from these students. It will make collecting much more challenging for the university, he said.

“If I give up the ability to stop them from re-registering or from getting a transcript, I might as well just say there is no reason to even send them a bill,” he said.

There is less incentive to pay anything, the vice president said.

“Bottom line is kids can’t go for free,” he said. “Somehow we got to figure out how to accumulate that money.”

“If they think it is reasonable that students should come to school for free then there needs to be additional funding to handle that,” McCann added.

At Eastern, administrators work individually with students to ensure ongoing enrollment and transcript procurement, school officials said.

“We make as many adjustments as we possibly can (to help them pay their bill),” McCann said.

By assessing needs at the individual level, enrolled students with outstanding balances of $200 or more are offered and can participate in customized payment plan options that would allow them to register for class or request transcripts immediately thereafter.

Jones said state funding to help the neediest students in Illinois has not kept pace with the costs of education, making it necessary to create ways to help them continue with school or seek employment after graduations.

Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed keeping Monetary Award Program funding for low-income students at current levels in his recent budget plan.

“Since this MAP grant funding hasn’t been enacted, many students weren’t able to register for classes or get copies of their transcripts for other scholarships, pushing intended graduation dates back even further for many students,” Jones said.

At Eastern, 66 percent of all undergraduates rely on federal student loans to help pay for their college education averaging $7,176 per year. The amount is 14.4 percent higher than the $6,273 amount borrowed by a freshman, according to the university.

In 2016, 39 percent of the first-time, full-time class of 2012 had not completed their degree.

According to Eastern data, 10 were still working towards their degree, 553 had transferred to a different institution, and EIU lost contact with the remaining 129 whom they assumed dropped out.

“This bill highlights the need for adequate financial aid for the state’s universities and colleges,” said state Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Joliet), chair of the Illinois Higher Education Board. “Universities have established emergency food pantries, emergency aid, and transportation for students to keep students enrolled.”

Reinhart said university officials are “keenly aware” of the financial difficulties many of its students face as they pursue their degree. But to Eastern officials, the outcome would likely be negative.

“Our costs will go up (should the legislation make it through),” McCann stressed.

Meanwhile, a drop in enrollment was also evident in local community colleges like Lake Land College, whose non-degree enrollment dropped from 2,288 in 2016 to 1,920 in 2017. In total, enrollment shifted from 3,865 in 2016 to 3,388 in 2017.

According to the Lake Land College 2017 enrollment report, the decline can be seen between FY2014, a year before the first budget impasse hit Illinois and FY2017.

Enrollment at many of the state’s public universities has declined this year after institutions were hit hard by the state’s recent financial instability, following a two-year budget impasse that has crippled the state’s higher education budget.

The measure has not gone very far since it was proposed last year. So far, it has jumped from committee to committee. Most recently, it was reassigned to the higher education committee. 

Staff writer Jarad Jarmon contributed to this article.

EIU opposes proposed Illinois bill on student debt

Comprehensive plan needed for improving 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: state funding for higher education 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 encourages our best and brightest to leave. And with every student who leaves — almost 170,000 of them over that five-year period — it should be no surprise that our Illinois higher education rankings slip further 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 some of the natural allure 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 a nationally high rate and could do so much more if state government embraced the possibilities instead of thwarting them. The 2½-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 we can turn it around only through real investment and improved performance. I’m encouraged a bi-partisan 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 in Springfield.

Comprehensive plan needed for improving higher education in Illinois