November 4, 2002
We have failed to communicate to the public and to policy makers the key contribution higher education makes to individual and societal success in this information age that is bringing about a true global economy. Education, not training education, its quality and value, is the core of the infrastructure of the information age. We need to ensure all of us, institutions, administrators and faculty, the BHE and FAC, accept the responsibility to communicate persuasively the role of higher education in ensuring individual and societal well-being. We do not make the decisions but we can ensure accurate information is available to those that do whether to students selecting a school, a legislator weighing appropriations, a public judging the quality of higher education. If we fail, we are partially responsible for the inability to achieve the support needed to maximize our potential contributions. If we are successful the ethical and pragmatic responsibilities for their choices and actions fall upon policy makers such as legislators and on the citizenry generally. The FAC commends the efforts of the BHE and institutions to enhance their communication efforts. In updating the report on student persistence and degree completion Director La Vista stressed that many ignore the changes occurring in higher education. Fewer students fit the traditional pattern of full-time enrollment immediately after high school graduation with degree completion in four years. Many students are older, enroll part-time while working full-time, return for more education at various stages in their lives. Academic readiness is the most important factor contributing to college graduation but financial conditions and personal/family characteristics and situations are significant factors.
There is concern about the impact of budget cuts on minorities and part-timers. Board members variously expressed concerns about the adequacy of high school preparation for college, the quality of teachers in the first two years of the college experience and how we compare nationally. (The National Report Card was released October 2. Illinois did not rank as high as in the previous report.) The Board directed the BHE staff to collect data on those most impacted by denial of the 5th year of financial aid, the extent and cost of remediation of students in higher ed, and the level of preparation of students entering Illinois higher ed. The Salary and Fringe Benefits study noted the success of recent programs to enhance salaries such as the 3+2+1. Public university faculty salaries have risen 11.4% from FY00 to FY02. From FY99 to FY02 on average the salaries have moved from 95.2% of peer group median averages to 98.0%. However, ground will be lost this year. The cost of fringe benefits averages 70.2% of the median for peer institutions although the amount for health care costs is higher than the peer averages. In FY00 the ranking of public institutions fell 5.2% when total compensation rather than average median salary was used as the basis of comparison. (Observer's note: This situation is unlikely to have improved so the FY02 98.0% of salary of peer institutions may approximate 92.8% in terms of total compensation.)
Independent institutions' faculty salaries average 5.3% more than peer group medians. Community college salaries gained less than the other two groups in the last two years but still exceed comparison states by 6.4%. In FY 2002 UIUC salaries were 93.7% of their comparison group median; in FY00 they stood at 92% with total compensation at 86.2%. (Data on compensation was based on FY00 data, as later data on compensation was not available from Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS). AAUP data on compensation was not used; reason not stated.) Finally, presenter Debra Smitley noted the future looks difficult as we are now in a different financial environment. Also, it is difficult to value the benefits provided so cost is used but that may not be the best measure of actual benefits provided. A Board member wanted to withhold State Matching Grant Program funds from the University of Chicago on the grounds it dropped its School of Education. UIC Chancellor Manning explained that the program was established to allow universities to meet matching grant requirements: grants are determined by the amount of federal and corporate research funding in the previous year. Questions were raised as to why this or other items come before the Board if the allocations are automatic and based on formula. The staff noted it seeks to keep the Board fully informed of all actions. The appropriation and other consent agenda items were approved. BHE Chair Lesnik and a majority of the Board met with the FAC after lunch. The topics covered a wide range of issues. One focus was improved communication between the Board and the FAC and the role FAC could play in being of help to the Board. Some Board members are not fully aware of reports the FAC provides, e.g., one member asked the FAC to address the issue of high school preparation for college-level work but the FAC had addressed that in a written report to the Board this summer. There was great stress on The Illinois Commitment, which one Board member described as "a sacred trust." The major emphasis of several Board members was the need for higher education to be more accountable. They seek a single measure that would ensure that all college graduates meet the goals established for granting a degree. They see assessment as providing a uniform measure derived from testing that shows each student has learned what is required.
The FAC stressed that educational goals varied widely with the major. Most faculty see assessment as a process of setting goals in terms of learning outcomes, determining the degree to which students meet them, and then altering the content and teaching process to achieve those goals more fully. Board members countered with specific examples of students receiving degrees who could not pass required professional tests or meet the requirements of employers. They believe the public is demanding and legislators require that we provide data to measure outcomes and provide for comparisons both internally and nationally. If we do not meet that challenge, higher education will not obtain needed funding. There was resistance to broadening The Illinois Commitment to include contributions of higher education to the quality of life of citizens of Illinois. That was not accepted as a goal, at least in part because the "public" had not asked for it in discussions leading to the development of the document. (The public had not asked that research be included either.) The topics of the need for and means of avoiding remediation of academic deficiencies of students entering higher education, faculty productivity, the rise in tuition beyond the rise in inflation indexes and the need for improved teacher education were other recurrent themes. At times the discussion became somewhat heated. Some Board members remained for extended discussions with individual FAC members after the meeting concluded. While some FAC members felt the discussion was rancorous and not productive, others believed it had served a useful purpose in demonstrating several of the gaps in mutual understanding and approach. Clearly the FAC has a better sense of the agenda of some members of the Board and the perspective they bring to their service on the Board.
Ken Andersen, FAC Chair
UIUC Senate FAC Representative