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

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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Copyright 2017 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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via KFVS – KFVS12 Home

November 14, 2017 at 10:52PM

IL Comptroller visits SIU to speak on budget

Bierman: When state doesn’t pay, school relies more heavily on students

Lack of state funding spurs tuition increases over time

MACOMB – The Western Illinois Faculty Senate heard a financial report presented by Budget Director Matthew Bierman on the Illinois budget crisis and subsequent fallout since 2016.
Bierman explained that the bulk of his report is a recap on the last few years of economic activity with some projections “for us to consider and use as a dialogue.”
The projected income for the FY18 fiscal year was broken down into three different budget entities the university has, which are $46 million in appropriated funds (state and tuition), $47.8 million in auxiliary faculty system funds, which are “specifically restricted based on bond covenants” — and $60 million in grants, loans and fees.
As a result of the Illinois state budget impasse, many institutions had to cut their services. Bierman said “FY16 and FY17 was a mess” with WIU receiving just $14.9 million in 2016. The shortfall in appropriated funds for the following fiscal year was buoyed by the transfer of funds from various sources as a “stop gap” measure against the university potentially closing its doors.
Bierman said the university received in FY17 $59.8 million, which is “more than we had in 2015, but only because of the way they forced us to count it.” Money allocated to cover the funding shortfall was $31.4 taken from a stop gap fund on June 30, 2016, $8.4 million in emergency funding from Illinois Board of Higher Education, $6.8 million emergency action fund on July 6, 2017, and $13.3 million from a general relief fund.
“When we got into this crisis that the state wasn’t paying us anything,” Bierman continued, “it became less about budget and more about immediate cash needs. That took precedence in how we managed a lot of the financial problems in last two years.”
The largest source of funding Western Illinois University receives is in appropriated funds, which comes by way of state allocated funds and student tuition. Given the budget impasse lasted over two years from 2015 to 2017, the university relied much more on student tuition as a source of immediate cash flow.
Bierman reported that student enrollment decreased over a 12-year period from 2006 when 13,602 total students enrolled and 2017 when 9,441 students were enrolled. The total number of students includes both undergrad and grad students.
He also said that the university took in $69 million in tuition fees in FY17, and an approximate tuition income of $63 million for FY18.
WIU Faculty Senator and Professor of Sociology Robert Hironimus-Wendt expressed his opinion to the Voice that students are paying a higher tuition because “the state does not invest its resources and revenue in higher education.”
“It is perfectly rational for any child growing up in Illinois to be looking elsewhere for college,” Hironimus-Wendt said as he referred to a prepared list of tuition rates at public universities in neighboring states.
Hironimus-Wendt explained the data for his list comparing the tuition fees from WIU against public universities in Illinois and neighboring states was sourced from website, which are:
• Western Illinois
University $12,889
• Illinois State
University $13,666
• University of
Wisconsin $10,415
•Purdue University
• University of Iowa
• Missouri University
• University of Kentucky

“The problem,” he said, “is not that our universities are flawed or that our faculty is too expensive or that our curricula are unjustifiable.” The problem, he said, is that “our governors and our legislators ignore the economic interests of the state, and refuse to invest more fully in the education of our citizenry.”
“I’ve heard for the past several (state) administrations they have been borrowing the retirement funds. So, the state builds up these long-term obligations, and the only way to keep the state afloat is to stop spending less on the public good, to stop spending less on social welfare issues like education.”
“In Illinois, your tuition is probably half or more of the cost of your education,” he said. “We’re putting the burden of higher education on the private citizen, and if we want to do that, heaven help us. We will kill our public institutions.”

Reach Christopher Ginn by email at

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via Community – The McDonough County Voice

November 14, 2017 at 07:27AM

Bierman: When state doesn’t pay, school relies more heavily on students

SXU professor earns research grant

How did city planners play a role in using new school construction to create residential segregation, especially in southern cities that once had substantially mixed-race housing patterns? Because of the close connection between school location and the housing market, school site selection preserved residential segregation long after the courts declared racial zoning unconstitutional, often with devastating consequences for inner-city neighborhoods.

One St. Xavier University (SXU) professor’s research investigates the implications of racial zoning in southern cities from the 1920s to the present. Dr. Karen Benjamin, associate professor of history, was recently awarded a $43,917 grant from the Spencer Foundation to fund her research and allow her to travel to three southern states to complete her research.

“This project developed out of my dissertation research on the intersection between segregationist policies and curriculum reform in southern cities during the 1920s,” said Benjamin. “While reading through manuscript collections at Duke University, I found a letter written by an African-American woman accusing the Raleigh school board of attempting to segregate African-American residents through school site selection. This serendipitous discovery led to an article in the Journal of Urban History (2012) that analyzes the role that the Raleigh school board played in creating residential segregation in that city.”

Her research project, “City Planners and the use of School Sites to Impose Racial Zoning on Southern Cities before WWII,” explores the close collaboration between city planners and school boards before 1930 and its effects on the field of residential segregation. Through her research grant, Benjamin will travel to Dallas, Austin, Birmingham and Raleigh to collect data.

“This study examines how city planners encouraged the location of modern schools in new residential developments to facilitate the population shift of white residents to racially restricted suburbs,” said Benjamin. “Simultaneously, modern schools built “deep” within areas set aside for African-American development facilitated the population shift of African-American residents to emerging ghettos. Thus, school site selection allowed planners to impose unofficial racial zones long after the courts affirmed their illegality. These efforts led to increased residential segregation well before federal housing policies began subsidizing white America’s flight to the suburbs and concentrating public housing in the urban core.”

Aside from her duties as a professor, Benjamin is also the social science education coordinator and the director of African-American studies. Many of her courses and programs have been centered on race and its meaning in society. Additionally, Benjamin received SXU’s Excellence in Teaching Award earlier this year.

“An active research agenda also helps me develop new courses with high impact learning opportunities such as U.S. Urban and Suburban History, Ghetto Formation in Twentieth-Century Chicago, and Southern Slavery, Southern Freedom,” said Benjamin. “In these courses, my scholarship helps me teach from a fresh perspective and provide a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Most importantly, it allows me to model what it means to be a scholar.”

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November 14, 2017 at 11:45AM

SXU professor earns research grant