Tuition Increases Only Support Bureaucracy


Written by Scott Reeder

Last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed a budget that trimmed funding for state universities.

The reaction of university bigwigs?

Jack up tuition and protect the bureaucracy at all costs. And I mean at all costs.

Look no further than the comments Illinois State University President Larry Dietz made to WEEK TV news:

“Budget cuts at that level would have an impact on many areas of University operations and there are many issues on the table for discussion. Some areas that could be affected include tuition – as set by our Board of Trustees – scholarships, faculty and staff compensation, hiring decisions and maintenance projects. Throughout the process, I want to assure you that protecting the jobs of our outstanding faculty and staff is our highest priority. We will do everything we can to prevent measures such as layoffs and forced furlough days.”

So he’s already thinking about jacking up tuition and cutting scholarships?

And his top priority is to make sure nobody loses their job?

He’d much rather see teenagers pay more to go to college than tell professors, many of them turning six digit salaries, to take a furlough day?

Sorry, folks, our state universities ought to be more than jobs programs for PhDs.

Our university systems have become bloated.

We have more university administrators than you can shake a slide rule at.

The cost of college is rising out of reach of working families.

Much of that is because university administrators have little incentive to contain costs, even when facing reduced funding from Springfield.

Part of it is the mindset of academia.

Often the best-paid professors are rewarded with less time in the classroom.

Last year, former state senator Steve Rauschenberger shared this with me:

“By the time I was Senate Appropriations chairman, the (University of Illinois) administration was admitting that full professors were carrying a class schedule of under 12 hours. And that 12 includes things that are officially counted as classroom time but aren’t  —  like committee work. … So that increases the cost to the university when you reduce the amount of teaching time by your highest paid employees.”

Of course professors have other duties, including research and office hours. But, still, young people are graduating with decades’ worth of student loan debt to pay the university’s ever escalating tuition.

There are ways to contain costs without burdening our children with more debt or taxpayers with higher bills.

One of the biggest costs to universities is pensions.

In fact, nine of the 10 highest pensions paid within Illinois state government go to retired University of Illinois professors. Topping the list is a professor who worked at the university’s Chicago campus. He collects an annual pension of $452,843.

That pension alone would cover the tuitions of 37 students for one year.

Greater student affordability can be achieved through university fiscal responsibility.

Already 13 percent of Illinois university employees are opting for a 401k-type retirement plans rather than a traditional pensions. This option affords employees greater economic freedom to move from job to job without losing benefits.

More employees need to be encouraged to consider this option.

And the first reaction of university administrators when facing reduced state funding shouldn’t be to preserve the bureaucracy.

It must be to provide the best value to students and taxpayers.

This article was originally posted at the Illinois News Network website.