Too many administrators, high faculty pay and high pension costs have combined to make Chicago State University's direction unsustainable and create negative outcomes for everyone, especially students, a Republican state lawmaker said in a recent interview.
"When you are failing that bad, all you are really doing is creating a sinkhole for taxpayer funds and a problem for those students who don’t make it all the way through and have taken on student debt that they must repay," Illinois state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) was quoted as saying in a Chicago News Wire story. "It is a terrible situation all around and more money is not going to solve their problems."
Massive change at some very fundamental levels will be required to turn that around, Ives said.
"Chicago State University, in my opinion, honestly, should be shut down and reconstituted perhaps as a community college where students are given other opportunities or at our other universities around the state where they may have a better support system because it is just bleeding taxpayer money with no results," Ives said.
Ives' comments came in the wake of the temporary budget plan reached last month by legislators in Springfield. While that plan is keeping the state limping along, most are looking into the state legislature's fall session with anxiety about the future, especially in education funding.
The state's high pension rate is attracting a great deal of blame. Almost 75 percent of the state's highest-paid government pensioners are collecting more than $200,000 a year in taxpayer-funded pensions, according to Tax Payers United of America's 10th Annual Report of Illinois State Pensions. Of those, two retired educators in Edwardsville, who between them collect almost $476,000 a year in pensions, made the Top 400 of Illinois state pensions.
Illinois public universities spend more each year on pensions than they receive in state funding, according to various published reports.
Early this year, Chicago State University declared a financial emergency, sending out notices in February to all 950 university employees warning of potential layoffs. The University has since laid off almost 400 employees at a cost of about $2.2 million, mostly in severance pay as mandated by the school's policy, according to an American Thinker report released this week. The school's policy requires laid off employees be given up to a year’s notice of being terminated or be paid for that time.
The number of administrators at the school is unjustified, Ives said.
"They have the most administrators and the highest administrator cost-per-student as well," Ives said. "They are not a flagship school. They are not a University of Illinois, which is nationally ranked magnet school. From around the world people want to go to the University of Illinois in Champaign. That is not true at all of Chicago State, and we are spending way too much money."
Much of the news for the university this year has been bad. In March, a state appeals court ruled Chicago State must pay a whistleblower more than $3.3 million after being fired for refusing to suppress public documents that may have cost the incoming president a chance to draw a pension along with his salary.
Meanwhile, Chicago State students graduate at depressingly low rates, with the most recent four-year graduation rate coming in at only 11 percent. Students also have been enduring increases in tuition and school fees, more than $5,000 over the past 10 years, to help cover those staffing costs.
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