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March 17, 2003

University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign Senate

HE.03.08 Report on the Board of Higher Education Meeting, February 4, 2003.

The IBHE met at The Hilton Garden Inn in Evanston. Chair Steven Lesnik called the meeting to order at 9:10 a.m. and introduced Kevin O'Kelly, a Northern Illinois University undergraduate replacing Katie Cox. She resigned upon assuming extra duties in Speaker Madigan's office relative to education issues believing that service on the Board would constitute an ethical conflict. He noted the Committee on Affordability would meet at 1:30 that afternoon.

President Henry Biener of Northwestern University welcomed the group, noting that Illinois has an excellent system of higher education. He stressed the worth of assuring access to and choice of type of institution for all students. He expressed his strong belief in the necessity to continue building a racially diverse student body as one element of excellence. He urged higher education to speak with one voice in this time of budget difficulties.

Executive Director LaVista said work continues on the faculty diversity project with a report of findings planned in April and recommendations to follow in August if the Supreme Court has ruled on the Michigan admissions cases. He and the staff are spending a great deal of time and effort talking to individuals in the executive and legislative branches about the 2004 budget.

Advisory Committee Reports: Ken Andersen of the Faculty Advisory Council noted that concerns about resources loom large for the faculty. In addition to budget concerns there is concern about the demands being placed on faculty time in areas such as assessment. An FAC statement stressed the necessity of faculty being centrally involved in determining what is to be assessed and how to assess it. If faculty are not involved and the reports fail to align with faculty instructional activity, assessment has no utility. The primary focus of assessment should be the improvement of the quality of instruction. Any new costs associated with assessment activities should be covered by increased funding. A second statement addressed the value of faculty and administration working together to enhance the ability of the institution to cope with issues facing the institution. Finally, if a rescission occurs it should not be across the board but should protect instructional activity and evaluate discretionary activities. The other advisory groups focused upon the urgency of protecting and increasing funds for the monetary award program to ensure student's freedom of choice is preserved with the student group stressing the need to restore funding for the 5th year.

Two items linked to assessment consumed the majority of the meeting time. The first set up a series of requirements for implementing assessment of each major. This means defining the goals and intended student learning outcomes; systematic review of learning throughout the program including its end; using multiple measures qualitative and quantitative; feedback from graduates, alumni and employers; evidence of use of the information to improve instruction; institutional monitoring of the results and their submission to the BHE as part of the normal schedule of program reviews. The UPI objected strongly urging that action be delayed. An AAUP presentation stressed the importance of faculty as central to assessment efforts and noted the costs in time when assessment programs take faculty out of the classroom.

Discussion by the Board centered on a proposal for Illinois to serve as one of 5 states in a pilot project supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts to secure state-level information on student learning and to facilitate developing a test model for collection of comparable college-level learning information across all states. Illinois will play a leadership role and can shape the outcome. The Board stressed that participation by the institutions must be voluntary and worried about the availability of staff time for this and other projects. The Board approved the adoption of the assessment policies and procedures and participation in the Pew study. They went on to approve without extended discussion the recommendations on the development of performance indicators as measures of the ability to meet the goals of The Illinois Commitment. The Board urged further refinement and an effort to develop more specific targets to assess whether or not we actually were meeting our goals.

The update on the Illinois Century Network noted that there were 6,000 connections serving approximately two million individuals, primarily students, daily. It is the largest, most successful network in the nation with lowest cost and highest reliability. A 167% increase in use is projected this year with more communities, museums, libraries, hospitals signing on in addition to schools of every level.

The impact of cutting the 5th year of support for students was described. (This absorbed $20M of the $38 cut in student aid funds.) Fifth year students are poorer, predominantly minority, change majors or schools and take more remedial work that the average student, 86% work with 32% working full-time, and are often deeply in debt. The University of Illinois absorbed this cost for its 5th year students, most did not. Fall semester, 85% of these students continued, often with reduced loads, more outside hours of work, more debt, etc. It appears many will not enroll this semester. The Board asked that this be checked. All awards were cut for this year and 30,000 students eligible for awards are not getting aid.

The legislative session has seen a number of bills introduced, some affecting higher education. A House Committee will hold budget hearings for higher education this Thursday in the context of a projected $5B deficit. Estimated revenues fell again in January. The Board asked drafted legislation be resubmitted to prevent the awarding of "fake" degrees.

The Board asked for more information relative to approving new programs. Private institutions do not have to show a need for new programs. The possibility of such a requirement will be investigated. Meanwhile approval of new programs will be moved from the consent to the action agenda and the reporting by staff made more extensive. Finally, one member asked that the staff develop a list of all the reports done each year as a basis for deciding whether some can be eliminated or done less frequently to save staff time and money.

Ken Andersen, Chair, FAC to the BHE
Senate Representative to the FAC