Chicago State University president resigns with $600,000 in severance pay

Chicago State University president resigns with $600,000 in severance pay

The outgoing CSU president’s exorbitant severance package highlights the need to rein in Illinois universities’ high administrative costs.

The Chicago State University, or CSU, board of trustees accepted the resignation of the university’s president, Thomas Calhoun Jr., on Sept. 16. Despite having served as president for only nine months, Calhoun received severance pay of $600,000 – two years’ salary – as part of his resignation agreement.

This is a blow to CSU students and taxpayers, both of whom foot the bill for administrator costs, including outgoing officials’ severance pay. CSU has the highest administrator costs among Illinois’ state universities, which has helped drive up average tuition and fees at CSU by more than $5,000 over the past decade. These administrative costs are driven by the large number of administrators at the university: CSU employs almost the same number of administrators as faculty members.

CSU is the state’s leader in bloated university administrative costs, but this problem plagues state universities and colleges across Illinois. Between 2004 and 2010, the number of administrators in Illinois’ universities grew by over 30 percent, yet the number of students only grew by 2.3 percent.

The problem is even worse than it appears. High administrator salaries – over half of Illinois’ more than 2,465 university administrators received a base salary of $100,000 or more in 2015 – are only part of overall compensation. Pensions are the biggest cost driver for universities. In fact, 53 percent of the money appropriated to universities by the state is spent on higher-education retirement costs, rather than on university operations.

Illinois’ higher education system needs reform. Excessive numbers of administrators, administrative salaries and benefits are unfair to both taxpayers and students, who pay for it. Illinois’ colleges need to freeze tuition rates, and then enact cost-saving reforms, such as switching to 401(k)-style retirement plans for new hires.

Mismanagement of student and taxpayer dollars is a crisis in Illinois. Reducing higher-education administrative costs is part of the solution.

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