What’s behind the Illinois higher education crisis

February 5, 2016

Funding for higher education has increased more than 60 percent since 2006.

CHICAGO (Feb. 5, 2016) – Many Illinois politicians and university administrators are blaming the state’s budget gridlock for higher-education funding shortfalls. But that’s not the driving force behind the financial troubles in Illinois’ higher-education system. A new analysis from the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute finds that skyrocketing administrator salaries, excessive levels of administrative overhead and steep pension costs has led to a doubling in tuition rates in the past decade, making college out of reach for many low- and middle-income students.

The report, which analyzed state data and education spending reports, found the following: More than 50 percent of state universities’ budgets go to pension costs for school faculty and administrators instead of going to the classroom. More than half of Illinois’ 2,465 university administrators received a base salary of $100,000 or more in 2015. And since 2006, Illinois universities have grown administrative staff and salaries to record numbers and record costs.

“The state budget debate is being blamed for much of the funding shortfalls for universities and programs such as MAP grants for low-income students. However, Illinois’ budget problems in large part have simply exposed Illinois universities’ failures to put students first,” said Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute. “Inflating university administration staff to such high levels and awarding such generous faculty and administrator salaries has raised tuitions to unaffordable rates and drained away state money, which should be going into the classroom. Today, many students in Illinois are forced to take on crippling debt just to get an education. Higher education should never force that burden on a student wanting to learn.”

Important data from the Illinois Policy Institute’s report titled, “Pensions vs. higher education: skyrocketing pensions, bloated administrations are pricing students out of college degrees.” include:

  • Illinois spends $4.1 billion on higher education. Funding for higher education has increased more than 60 percent since 2006.
  • The state spends 53 percent of all higher education resources on university faculty and administrators’ retirement costs. By comparison, Illinois spent 20 percent of higher-education resources on retirement costs in 2006.
  • Over the last 10 years, combined student tuition and fees at public universities has increased 74 to 112 percent, depending on the university.
  • Since 2006, spending on the classroom at universities declined by 7 percent. In that same timeframe spending on pensions and retirement costs has increased by 400 percent.
  • Since 2004, the number of university administrators has grown by 31 percent; faculty increased 1.8 percent and the number of students grew 2.3 percent.
  • The average career university administrator will earn more than $3 million in lifetime retirement benefits.
  • More than half of state university retirees will retire in their 50s and will see their annual pension benefits double over the course of their retirement.

The full report is available online here: https://www.illinoispolicy.org/reports/pensions-vs-higher-education/

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