EIU provost candidate stresses market-smart view in higher ed


CHARLESTON — Eastern Illinois University’s first candidate out of four seeking the top academic position on campus has a mission-centered but market-oriented view on how academics should function, according to a faculty open session Thursday.

Tim Crowley was the first provost and vice president of Academic Affairs candidate to come to Eastern for tours and interviews with the campus community.

Hailing from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan., Crowley, current FHSU assistant provost for academic programs and student success, touched on his history and the history of his university as an example of the success that can come out of his university’s rule of thinking.

Crowley said like in Illinois, albeit under different circumstances, the State of Kansas seems reluctant to fund higher education.

“I live in a red state,” he said. “They are not interested in funding higher education… Our latest administration has wanted to starve the beast. Higher education is a part of state government and the thought is to make state government smaller.”

On top of this, his university is housed in a depopulating part of the state. Crowley said it is more and more clear and evident that the university cannot rely entirely on the state to fix its issues.

“We have always looked at things through whether it is mission-centered,” Crowley said. “The second question we ask is if it is market smart. The idea that higher education has been above, on top of a mountain and never wanted to engage in the realities of the trading and the market is really a false one.”

He said an institution can be market-smart as long as it does not negatively affect the mission.

During the open session with faculty, Crowley cited two programs that were implemented at his university, which he saw as successful avenues in enhancing academics to be more market-focused.

One avenue he mentioned was focused on adopting online programing. He said online programming opened up who the university could educate outside of their state.

However, Crowley said it is still just as important to maintain a strong on-campus community.

Crowley said forming international relationships also is a successful program his university undertook. FHSU formed relationships with Chinese universities, which Crowley said has been a fruitful venture.

However, international relationships and online academic courses and programs are only some pieces of the puzzle.

“I think enrollment management is probably one of the critical things to be worked on here,” Crowley said. “I think that runs the gamut of which online learning is just a piece.”

Crowley is coming from a bigger university, at least in terms of enrollment, with more than 12,000 students.

The second EIU provost candidate is expected to visit from March 27-29. He or she has not been named.

In the position, the incoming provost would oversee academic departments and various services including financial aid, admissions, the library, minority affairs and others. The provost is a second to the university president, according to a description of the position on the EIU provost search web page.

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EIU provost candidate stresses market-smart view in higher ed

Chicago Newsroom 3/23/17


Ken Davis is joined by Bobby Otter, Budget Director for the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. They discuss the deeply troubling state of finances at Illinois’ public universities. Since 2000, adjusted for inflation, higher education in Illinois has seen its funding reduced by almost 80 percent, and the situation is worse at the universities that serve largely minority or lower-income students. In their recent report, entitled Illinois’ Significant Disinvestment ion Higher Education, the CTBA concludes, “As things currently stand, there is no basis to believe the State will have the financial capacity to enhance Higher Education funding in the next few years.” This program was produced by Chicago Access Network Television (CAN TV).

Chicago Newsroom 3/23/17

Budget crisis forces Illinois university to close for a week


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Northeastern Illinois University has shut down for spring break. The school says the closing, for the week of March 20, is a necessary move to ensure there will be enough money to stay open the rest of the year.

Universities across Illinois have been scraping by just to stay operational over the 20 months that their state’s budget has been at an impasse. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner continues to balk at funding services, from higher education to senior care; the equally determined state Legislature, which has a Democratic majority, refuses to cave to his cuts in public services and anti-union demands.

NEIU has finally reached a breaking point. The campus is shuttered for the week: computer labs, the writing center, the library—all closed. Only police and building engineers are on call. More than 1,000 employees will be furloughed, forced to take a week without pay. Worse, about 300 students who rely on their campus jobs will be out of work too.

Protest signs at Northeastern Illinois University

University Professionals of Illinois members have joined students and community members to rise up and protest. Hundreds turned out at a rally March 16 to demand full funding, and they are planning a statewide Teach Out for Illinois Higher Education on April 27. “This is the second consecutive year where the university furloughed the hardworking staff and faculty to simply keep the doors open,” UPI President John Miller said in a statement. “Our students, employees and state deserve better.” Miller and hundreds of UPI members have protested the cuts and worked hard with the Legislature to try to pass the budget.

Administrators are also outraged. “It’s just unthinkable to me that we would do this to students,” Richard Helldobler, NEIU interim president, told the Chicago Tribune.

Universities across the state have already laid off hundreds of employees. They’ve also furloughed staff before; last year at NEIU, it was one unpaid day a week for six weeks. At Chicago State University, 900 faculty, staff and administrators got layoff notices last year and more than one-third of the employees are currently laid off, including instructors, tenured and tenure-track faculty, and student-support professionals. Enrollment there has dropped by half, as the school’s status has become increasingly unstable.

Eastern Illinois University has laid off 177 support staff and instructors and is now moving to eliminate academic programs. Governors State University has cut 22 programs and hiked tuition by 15 percent, with additional program eliminations expected. Western Illinois University has laid off more than 100 instructors, including tenure-track faculty, and an additional 100-plus noninstructional employees, and has forced pay deferrals and furloughs. The schools have all deferred maintenance, cut travel budgets and begun to spend their reserves. And students all over the state are worried about their Monetary Award Program, or MAP, grants—need-based state aid grants that have not been funded for the current academic year. Without the grants, designed for the lowest-income and most disadvantaged students, many will be unable to enroll.

The situation is so bad that, at a planning meeting for the March 16 rally, UPI organizers urged advocates to bring canned goods: With campus closed over spring break, the food bank would be unavailable and students would need to stock up.

“For years, Gov. Rauner has engineered fiscal crises to justify austerity budgets that slash public spending and lower taxes for his billionaire friends,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “It’s a vicious cycle, and today we’re seeing the consequences play out.

“This shutdown will deny students the ability to learn and will fire part-time student workers who depend on a regular salary to survive. Contingent faculty will be hit especially hard. We want the school to join our fight for a new budget in Springfield, but only if it is committed to advocating for students and to stabilizing the state college system that educates tens of thousands of Illinoisans.”

[Virginia Myers]

Budget crisis forces Illinois university to close for a week

Heartland: Funding cuts threaten student progress


LINCOLN — Heartland Community College officials are concerned that cutbacks made because of the state budget impasse could hurt the progress the school has made in keeping students in school.

In addition, Doug Minter, vice president for business services, told the board of trustees, meeting Tuesday at Heartland’s Lincoln Center, that the college has drawn about $135,000 from its contingency fund two-thirds of the way through its fiscal year, “which is not standard process in a normal budget year.”

Heartland is still working from stopgap state funding from last year as the governor and lawmakers seek agreement on a balanced budget for this fiscal year, which began July 1.

In a report to the board, Heartland President Rob Widmer said the college has made gains in student persistence — the measure of students returning to school from semester to semester and earning certificates or degrees.

Widmer credited that improvement in persistence — coupled with programs such as College Now, which enables students to get college credit while still in high school — for Heartland’s ability to show an overall gain in enrollment from 2013 to 2017.

Heartland was among only three public community colleges in the state to register enrollment gains in that period. Heartland’s overall enrollment rose 2.5 percent from spring 2013 to spring 2017. The only others to show increases were Harper College, with a 2.6 percent increase, and the College of DuPage, with a gain of 1.9 percent.

“This is where it gets a little scary,” said Widmer. “We’ve had to cut student support services. … Is that going to have a longer-term impact if we don’t have more money to put into it?”

The cuts include reduction in tutor availability and library hours, he said after the meeting.

While the college does not have evidence that the cut in support services is having a negative impact, it is a concern, said Widmer.

The college has made a conscious effort to focus on keeping students in school not only to stabilize its enrollment but also to fulfill its commitment to student success.

Citing figures from the National Student Clearinghouse and the National Community College Benchmark Project, Widmer said Heartland is “far exceeding the national benchmarks, indicative of the commitment we’ve made to our students — our commitment to student success.”

For example, among Heartland students who started in 2009 and attended college exclusively full time, 79 percent received a certificate or degree within six years compared to a national benchmark of 54.5 percent. More dramatically, 61.5 percent of those full-time students received a bachelor’s degree in that six-year period compared to a national benchmark of 24.7 percent.

In another matter, the board discussed a bill moving through the General Assembly that could give some community colleges the authority to grant bachelor’s degrees in nursing.

Widmer said, based on discussion among staff, Heartland would not pursue authority to grant such degrees, even if the legislation passes. Heartland officials would support passage of the legislation, however.

Heartland: Funding cuts threaten student progress

Illinois Universities Feel the Brunt of State’s Fiscal Woes


With the budget stalemate in Illinois in its 21st month, public universities in the state are going beyond belt-tightening to deal with a funding drought that has no end in sight.

Campuses already have pressed pause on new construction and stopped hiring for vacant positions. Now, universities including Northeastern Illinois, Governors State and Southern Illinois are looking to fixes like hiking tuition, cutting academic programs or…

Illinois Universities Feel the Brunt of State’s Fiscal Woes

In sixth year, 'Saluki Stay' scholarships for returning SIU students underscore retention efforts



CARBONDALE — Five returning Southern Illinois University Carbondale students will receive in-kind gifts totaling nearly $1,500 prior to the fall semester thanks to a continuing scholarship targeting retention from the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.

“It was designed as way to help students who maybe could not afford to come back, so it was very much a retention effort,” said Director Les O’Dell, the chamber’s executive director.

This is the sixth year for the Saluki Stay Scholarship Program, O’Dell said. The chamber is currently seeking applicants.

This past year, students received in-kind gifts in the form of free haircuts, at least one free meal a week at a member restaurant, oil changes, $250 toward books from 710 Bookstore, among other things. The scholarships are funded by in-kind gifts and cash donations from the chamber’s members.

Since the program began in 2012, about 25 students have received the award, and all have graduated or are on target to graduate, O’Dell said. It is overseen by the chamber’s Saluki Pride Committee, which has a mission of strengthening the relationship between SIU and the Carbondale business community.

SIU is a top economic driver of the Carbondale and greater Southern Illinois region. While much focus is placed on new student recruitment, retention of returning students has been a renewed focus of university, city and business leaders in more recent years. 

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Applicants for the scholarship are judged blind by Saluki Pride subcommittee members based on a combination of financial need, potential for success and students’ involvement in positive SIU and community activities.

“We like to call it the most unique scholarship on campus because it’s so much fun,” he said. “It’s been a really great scholarship program and a simple way for our members to support students.”

To be eligible for the award, students must be enrolled full time for the fall semester 2017, be juniors or seniors with at least a 2.8 grade point average, have attended SIU for at least four semesters and show demonstrated financial need.

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In sixth year, 'Saluki Stay' scholarships for returning SIU students underscore retention efforts