Illinois government experts to discuss state politics, higher education

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Illinois government experts to discuss state politics, higher education

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Two experts on Illinois government will take part in a panel discussion about “Higher Education, Pensions and Politics” Wednesday in the Charleston/Mattoon Room of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

Madeleine Doubek, director of policy and civic engagement for the Better Government Association, and Richard Wandling, chair of the political science department, will talk about various issues, according to a press release.

The discussion is sponsored by the EIU Annuitants Association and is designed “to keep the public and EIU community abreast of state issues,” the press release stated.

“Although the state legislature finally approved a budget after more than two years of political gridlock, funding of higher education, pensions and other budgetary issues will continue to be a concern for Illinois taxpayers again this year,” said Margaret Messer, president of the EIU Annuitants Association, in the release. “The public and the EIU community need to stay informed on these and other issues, and we think sponsoring this event will help.”

Doubek has worked as a journalist covering state and local government for 32 years, during which time she has written extensively on the state’s pension system. She served as publisher of Reboot Illinois and assistant vice president/executive editor of The Daily Herald in Arlington Heights.

She is an alumna of Eastern’s journalism department who also minored in political science.

Wandling has taught at Eastern for about 30 years, specializing in public policy, public administration and state and local politics.

The News desk can be reached at 581-2812 or dennewsdesk@gmail.com.

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October 31, 2017 at 09:56PM

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Illinois government experts to discuss state politics, higher education

Ken Griffin gives $125 million to U. of C., the latest in a rash of mega donations to Illinois universities

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A flood of money is pouring into the state’s top schools as the University of Chicago and University of Illinois have landed some of their largest-ever single donations within a week of each other.

Ken Griffin, the richest man in Illinois, committed $125 million to U. of C.’s economics department, university leaders will announce Wednesday. It is the second-largest gift in the university’s history, officials said, behind the $300 million from David G. Booth to the business school in 2008.

Last week, Larry and Beth Gies gave $150 million to Urbana-Champaign’s business school, which will be renamed in their honor. That is biggest gift in the university’s history.

And those gifts, coming amid a sustained economic expansion and as equities markets set records seemingly every day, are just the latest in what has become a cascade of private money for top universities.

In 2017 alone, the Duchossois family donated $100 million in May for research to University of Chicago Medicine — the medical school’s largest ever donation — and Amy and Richard F. Wallman gave the university’s Booth School of Business $75 million in October.

The recent mega gifts shows several factors at work, experts say.

The University of Illinois, University of Chicago and Northwestern University all are in the midst of multibillion-dollar fundraising campaigns, which tend to attract prominent donations.

Experts also say it is common for large gifts to be revealed in the fall, close to homecoming celebrations.

Nationally, data show significant growth in gifts and commitments to higher education institutions even as donations in the high eight figures or even nine figures remain relatively rare.

Additionally, public universities are becoming more ambitious and successful in fundraising, routinely generating outside donations comparable to top private institutions. The University of Illinois at Chicago, for example, announced its own $750 million fundraising campaign on Saturday.

“It’s not just because everyone wants to be in the ‘three comma’ club of billion-dollar campaigns,” said Jim Moore, Jr. president and CEO of the U. of I. Foundation. “The reality is that the funding model for public higher education is changing. The public funds are just not there like they once were. Private support is going to continue to play a greater and greater role in the current and the evolving funding model for these institutions.”

Griffin’s gift will support scholarships for third- and fourth-year economics majors through the university’s Odyssey program, which eliminates loans and work-study requirements for low- and middle-income students. It also will help launch the Kenneth C. Griffin Applied Economics Research Incubator, school leaders said.

The economics department will be named for Griffin, who also is a member of the board of trustees.

In an interview, Griffin said he wanted to help continue U. of C.’s advances and achievements in economics. Richard H. Thaler won the 2017 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences last month, the university’s 28th award in that category.

“I am proud to support the incredible economics department at the University of Chicago,” Griffin said. “So many of the great thought leaders that have shaped economics — Gary Becker, Milton Friedman — what an unbelievable success story they’ve had in their field.”

Griffin also said he wanted to support the university’s need-blind admissions, in which a candidate’s ability to pay is not considered in the admissions process.

“As Americans, I think we really believe that with the meritocracy that exists in our country, the equality of opportunity is so important to the foundation of our culture and our society,” Griffin said.

Amanda Woodward, interim dean of the social sciences division, said there is a growing desire within the field of economics to do more research involving field experimentation and big data analytics.

“Both of those research endeavors are expensive,” Woodward said. “They take a lot of work to do well and to develop. “There’s just a need to support this kind of research that isn’t filled in any other way. This kind of gift really enables that, and that will be much of the effort of this research incubator.”

The Gies family gift will be used to create graduate programs and make the course offerings more accessible to students, regardless of location or economic status, leaders said. Before this, U. of I.’s top gifts were $100 million from Thomas M. Siebel in 2007 and from the Grainger Foundation in 2013.

The Gies gift was announced as University of Illinois was starting the public phase of a five-year, $3.04 billion fundraising campaign, the system’s most aggressive effort ever. Within a year of Northwestern’s public fundraising launch to raise $3.75 billion, the university secured a record $101 million donation from Roberta Buffett Elliott, then a $92 million gift from alum Louis Simpson and his wife, Kimberly Querrey.

U. of C. opened a $4.5 billion campaign in 2014, the biggest in the Chicago area, later raising the target to $5 billion.

Only 13 other schools have secured donations of $100 million or more in 2017, according to a database of large gifts compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Only six universities received gifts equal to or larger than $150 million this year.

A 2017 study by Marts & Lundy, a fundraising consulting firm, show the dollar value of education gifts above $10 million increased from $5.57 billion in 2015 to nearly $6.2 billion in 2016, an 11 percent jump. There were fewer gifts of at least $50 million, but the cumulative value of those donations grew from $2.94 billion to $3.21 billion, according to the study.

One factor driving the largesse, one expert said, is the expanding economy and soaring equities markets.

“There’s always been a strong correlation between major gifts and the market,” said David Bass, senior director of research for Council for the Advancement and Support of Education in Washington, D.C. “The fact that there are a lot of people with a lot of appreciated assets, it can be a very desirable things to say you’re going to cash out now. When people think of their financial planning, it’s a good moment to make those kinds of gifts.”

Griffin’s net worth, for example, increased by $1 billion this year, according to Forbes.

Bass added that benefactors see higher education giving as a way to achieve tangible social, scientific and economic change.

“When (donors) make a major gift to a university, it might not be because of fondness for alma mater,” Bass said. “It might be because they look at that university as a partner that can help them achieve a major philanthropic purpose: ‘I want to cure a disease or I want to create opportunities for a whole generation of students in a state.’”

Michael Faber of University of California, San Francisco had a similar point of view.

UCSF, which solely offers graduate and professional programs in health sciences, collected nearly $600 million in 2016, according to an annual survey from the Council for Aid to Education. UCSF also claimed the largest gift among public schools in 2017: a colossal $500 million donation from the Helen Diller Foundation, according to The Chronicle.

“I think one of the big things driving the funding here is that people want to solve a big problem,” said Faber, associate vice chancellor of university development and alumni relations. “They don’t necessarily give to UCSF, but they give through us to things like diabetes and cancer, things we’re really good at tackling.”

UCSF was the most successful public institution at fundraising although many others, even in the Midwest, are amassing yearly donations that put them in league with top private schools. University of Michigan raised about $434 million, Ohio State University collected more than $386 million and Indiana University secured about $361 million, according to the CAE study.

Bass said the first major fundraising campaigns at public colleges started in the 1980s and gained momentum as state support began declining.

“What we’re seeing I think is the culmination of decades of work in public higher education,” he said. “One of the success factors for a campaign is having long-established relationships based on trust and confidence with prospective donors. Those relationships can take a long time to build.”

Indiana University has been so successful with its current campaign that school officials reset the goal from $2.5 billion to $3 billion, according to Jeff Lindauer, vice president of advancement services and managing director of capital campaigns for the IU Foundation.

Lindauer said one key to IU’s success is carefully matching potential donors to projects, programs and initiatives that fit their philanthropic interests.

“It’s sort of a joke in higher education that every university needs a parking garage. It’s really hard to find a donor interested in funding a parking garage,” Lindauer said. “If we meet with you as donor, for us to be successful, we need to do less of the speaking and more of the listening, and hear how the donor wants to realize their philanthropic dream.”

The three University of Illinois schools detailed their funding goals this month. In addition to UIC’s $750 million campaign, Urbana-Champaign and Springfield previously revealed their aims of $2.25 billion and $40 million.

All told, the three-school system is aiming to collect over $600 million more than the previous campaign, “Brilliant Futures,” which ended in 2011 and collected a record $2.43 billion.

“These are ambitious goals but we’re going to meet them and exceed them,” President Timothy Killeen said.

drhodes@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @rhodes_dawn

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November 1, 2017 at 12:06AM

Ken Griffin gives $125 million to U. of C., the latest in a rash of mega donations to Illinois universities

Illinois’ financial problems originate in pension systems

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The claim that the state of Illinois has financial issues and a dysfunctional government has become a truism to the public in the last few years. Many people point fingers at who is to blame for Illinois’ woes, often seeking a sense of affirmation by tying a century of issues to a single name.

Governor Bruce Rauner has insisted that Illinois’ problems derive from a decade long Democratic stronghold in the General Assembly and, until 2014, the Governor’s office. Many people in the state of Illinois believe him or have formulated their own similar conclusions.

This attitude is not only disingenuous, but it is also flat out wrong. The bulk of Illinois’ financial problems come from government mishandling of public employee pension payment issues over the last 100 years. Yes, 100. Underneath the political rhetoric and campaign tactics, there is a much deeper and convoluted reason for the current state that Illinois is in.

In fact, it can be traced to exactly 100 years ago. A 1917 report evaluated the Illinois pension systems. Their findings — that the current pension systems “‘are inharmonious and often in contradictory with reference to each other, but that with perhaps a single minor exception they are financially unsound and moving toward a crisis.’”

Despite this report, dealing with the impending pension crisis was continually pushed back by lawmakers for the next fifty years. In 1970, an Illinois constitutional convention presented opportunity for the state to reform its unstable pension systems. However, instead of delivering reforms to the systems, the delegates doubled down on the pension payments by making it a part of the Illinois constitution to have payments be made to the pension funds as promised.

Though the pension system was insolvent from the beginning, this decision made in 1970 is the bedrock for the state’s pension problems. They modeled it after New York. But, while it worked for the Empire State, the Land of Lincoln was not as forthright with the payments, and the building pension issue persisted.

 1994 presented another opportunity to contain the growing pension deficit. Republican Governor Jim Edgar proposed a 50-year plan, known as the “Edgar Ramp,” which would be a gradual increase in payments made to the pension fund by the taxpayers with the idea that, by the end of the ramp, the debt would be 90 percent erased. It had bipartisan support, was incredibly politically expedient and was signed into law.

Unfortunately, this plan did not work either, and it is now infamous among Democrats and Republicans alike. The initial payments were made well short of the necessary amount, and an economic recession in the early 2000s made the ramp much more implausible going forward. By the time Rod Blagojevich was sworn into office in 2003, the pension debt had only risen substantially.

Edgar still defends his ramp today, claiming that if the economy was stable, payments wouldn’t have gone under. But that’s hard to believe when they weren’t satisfactory from the start. It’s similar to applying for a credit card and claiming that there’s no need to worry about most of the costs in the future as long as the company’s required minimum payments are made in the now. It’s fiscally irresponsible.

In 2013, the General Assembly and Democratic Governor Pat Quinn made monumental pension reform that greatly reduced benefits and would drive down pension costs. This was then struck down by the Illinois supreme court citing the clause, created by the 1970 convention, that stated contemporary pension funds can not be altered and must be paid as promised.

This was a crucial blow to a genuine attempt to reform pension payments and start filling the cracks of the state’s financial problems. It’s important to emphasize how these issues are not black and white or red and blue but a collective result from the sins of Illinois’ fathers.

Last year, the independent state Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability said that the pension debt was up to $130 billion — the worst of any state. Though many see the state’s future as bleak as political bickering and in state political conflicts continue, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

In 2011, the General Assembly and Governor Quinn passed reform that greatly reduced pension benefits for those who were hired after the year 2011. This means that, many years down the road, the pension crisis has the potential to work itself out once those employees begin to retire.

This, of course, is not as immediate as some would like, and there should still be measures taken to make up for the pension debt that is going to grow substantially before the 2011 reforms kick in and begin to reduce its size.

But those measures would have to come from cuts to government services and/or more taxes, neither of the which are popular among Illinois voters. And therefore, hard political discussions are ahead for elected officials of each party.

Austin is a sophomore in Media. 

aas3@dailyillini.com

The post Illinois’ financial problems originate in pension systems appeared first on The Daily Illini.

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October 31, 2017 at 07:08AM

Illinois’ financial problems originate in pension systems

Illinois’ financial problems originate in pension systems

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The claim that the state of Illinois has financial issues and a dysfunctional government has become a truism to the public in the last few years. Many people point fingers at who is to blame for Illinois’ woes, often seeking a sense of affirmation by tying a century of issues to a single name.

Governor Bruce Rauner has insisted that Illinois’ problems derive from a decade long Democratic stronghold in the General Assembly and, until 2014, the Governor’s office. Many people in the state of Illinois believe him or have formulated their own similar conclusions.

This attitude is not only disingenuous, but it is also flat out wrong. The bulk of Illinois’ financial problems come from government mishandling of public employee pension payment issues over the last 100 years. Yes, 100. Underneath the political rhetoric and campaign tactics, there is a much deeper and convoluted reason for the current state that Illinois is in.

In fact, it can be traced to exactly 100 years ago. A 1917 report evaluated the Illinois pension systems. Their findings — that the current pension systems “‘are inharmonious and often in contradictory with reference to each other, but that with perhaps a single minor exception they are financially unsound and moving toward a crisis.’”

Despite this report, dealing with the impending pension crisis was continually pushed back by lawmakers for the next fifty years. In 1970, an Illinois constitutional convention presented opportunity for the state to reform its unstable pension systems. However, instead of delivering reforms to the systems, the delegates doubled down on the pension payments by making it a part of the Illinois constitution to have payments be made to the pension funds as promised.

Though the pension system was insolvent from the beginning, this decision made in 1970 is the bedrock for the state’s pension problems. They modeled it after New York. But, while it worked for the Empire State, the Land of Lincoln was not as forthright with the payments, and the building pension issue persisted.

 1994 presented another opportunity to contain the growing pension deficit. Republican Governor Jim Edgar proposed a 50-year plan, known as the “Edgar Ramp,” which would be a gradual increase in payments made to the pension fund by the taxpayers with the idea that, by the end of the ramp, the debt would be 90 percent erased. It had bipartisan support, was incredibly politically expedient and was signed into law.

Unfortunately, this plan did not work either, and it is now infamous among Democrats and Republicans alike. The initial payments were made well short of the necessary amount, and an economic recession in the early 2000s made the ramp much more implausible going forward. By the time Rod Blagojevich was sworn into office in 2003, the pension debt had only risen substantially.

Edgar still defends his ramp today, claiming that if the economy was stable, payments wouldn’t have gone under. But that’s hard to believe when they weren’t satisfactory from the start. It’s similar to applying for a credit card and claiming that there’s no need to worry about most of the costs in the future as long as the company’s required minimum payments are made in the now. It’s fiscally irresponsible.

In 2013, the General Assembly and Democratic Governor Pat Quinn made monumental pension reform that greatly reduced benefits and would drive down pension costs. This was then struck down by the Illinois supreme court citing the clause, created by the 1970 convention, that stated contemporary pension funds can not be altered and must be paid as promised.

This was a crucial blow to a genuine attempt to reform pension payments and start filling the cracks of the state’s financial problems. It’s important to emphasize how these issues are not black and white or red and blue but a collective result from the sins of Illinois’ fathers.

Last year, the independent state Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability said that the pension debt was up to $130 billion — the worst of any state. Though many see the state’s future as bleak as political bickering and in state political conflicts continue, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

In 2011, the General Assembly and Governor Quinn passed reform that greatly reduced pension benefits for those who were hired after the year 2011. This means that, many years down the road, the pension crisis has the potential to work itself out once those employees begin to retire.

This, of course, is not as immediate as some would like, and there should still be measures taken to make up for the pension debt that is going to grow substantially before the 2011 reforms kick in and begin to reduce its size.

But those measures would have to come from cuts to government services and/or more taxes, neither of the which are popular among Illinois voters. And therefore, hard political discussions are ahead for elected officials of each party.

Austin is a sophomore in Media. 

aas3@dailyillini.com

The post Illinois’ financial problems originate in pension systems appeared first on The Daily Illini.

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October 31, 2017 at 07:08AM

Illinois’ financial problems originate in pension systems

Private Colleges Rank High

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Six of the ten top universities in Illinois are private schools, largely because graduates earn so much more.

According to consumer watchdog group WalletHub, the top three schools on the list are University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. The list is dominated by private schools thereafter. Among them are Illinois Institute of Technology, Wesleyan University, Wheaton College, University of St. Francis, Dominican University and Bradley University.

The rankings were based on student selectivity, cost and financing, and career outcomes.

Click here for summary

WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez said the earning potential of students from private schools shot them above their public counterparts.

“People who attend these private institutions tend to make $20,000 to $ 30,000 more 10 years out than those attending public institutions,” she said. Graduates of the Illinois Institute of Technology averaged $70,000 annually, for instance.

Schools in other states are more even in earning potential, Gonzalez said. New York’s and California’s private school graduates earned similar wages as those who attended public universities.

Gonzalez said the rule of “you get what you pay for” is generally true with Illinois schools, but some, like Bradley University, offer good value because “they’re really middle of the board in terms of financing but have really great career outcomes.”

The University of Chicago ranked first out of the 35 Illinois schools measured.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio / http://ift.tt/19rx5wC)

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October 31, 2017 at 12:05AM

Private Colleges Rank High

UI athletics sets $300 million fundraising goal

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Goal is a part of the $2.25 billion overall UI system benchmark

University of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman said the athletics department has a goal of raising $300 million as a part of the school’s overall campaign goal of more than $2 billion.

Whitman announced Monday that the money will go into three different "pillars of excellence": student scholarships, capital projects  and student athlete enhancement.

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October 30, 2017 at 12:45PM

UI athletics sets $300 million fundraising goal

State task force eyes improving adult education

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NORMAL — Strengthening the transition from basic skills to post-secondary career training and increasing public-private partnerships are among the potential goals under consideration of a new statewide task force studying adult education.

That’s welcome news for Kerry Urquizo, director of adult education at Heartland Community College.

“Right now, we need to make more connections with workplaces and workplaces need to be more open to us as a pipeline,” said Urquizo.

“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,” said task force Chairwoman Karen Hunter Anderson, executive director of the ICCB.

Matt Berry, ICCB spokesman, said task force members brainstormed about potential goals as well as improvements or problems that need to be considered.

Those improvements include greater development of soft skills and career readiness, such as resume writing, interviewing, communication and time management, he said.

Other potential goals include identifying successful pilot programs and expanding them statewide and fostering lifelong focus, he said.

Among concerns raised at the initial meeting was that while a lot of students are entering adult basic education classes at community colleges, not enough are moving into middle-level, advanced career training, said Berry.

He said competing interests can be involved.

“You’re trying to get them through the pipeline faster and into the workforce … but there’s also a need for the more advanced skills required in today’s economy,” he said.

One way that is being addressed at Heartland is through ICAPS — Integrated Career and Academic Preparation System — in which students take some academic courses at the same time they are taking preparation courses for their high school equivalency degree, explained Urquizo.

She hopes the task force will look for ways to expand that approach.

Currently, there are three assessment programs for getting a high school equivalency degree.

Mark Jontry, regional superintendent of education, said he hopes the task force will look at which assessments are the most successful.

He said the task force should ask, “Are people passing one at a better rate than others and how well are they transitioning into college and career programs?”

More than 1.2 million adults in Illinois do not have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate, according to the ICCB.

“The challenge for the adult education providers with the recent (state) budget problems is they have had their funding cut severely,” said Jontry.

Urquizo said 645 students went through adult education courses in the last academic year. That was lower than typical because of the state’s budget problems, she said, but it’s climbing back this year.

In addition to adult education courses leading to high school equivalency certificates, Heartland also operates an English as a second language program that has nine levels. It goes from functional English and workplace communication to academic English.

Urquizo has seen many changes in the dozen years she has been involved in adult education at Heartland.

She has watched it go from students being solely focused on getting their GED certificate to having them think about longer term career goals.

“The whole culture of adult education has shifted and I think it’s wonderful,” she said.

Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter @Pg_Sobota

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October 30, 2017 at 07:06AM

State task force eyes improving adult education