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February 20, 2006

University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign Senate

HE.06.05 Report on the IBHE Faculty Advisory Council Meeting, December 2, 2005.

The FAC met in Springfield with IBHE staff.  Make Baumbartner, budget director, discussed FY2007 budget issues. Higher education is at about the 1994 level of funding taking inflation into account. The four-year public higher education schools have taken a 13% cut from FY2002 to FY2006.  The figure is closer to 16% if the money taken from university budgets for health insurance is included.  The Monetary Award Program for student aid is down 5.6%, largely due to cuts in 2003-2004.  Since 2002-03, tuition and fees at public four-year institutions are up 27% with Pell grants essentially flat.  Many but not all institutions are increasing their financial aid for students.

BHE and institutional priorities are faculty and staff salary competitiveness, affordability, and  maintenance and improvement of facilities.  Overall state tax revenues are increasing but the money available in the general fund is not increasing as rapidly and does not cover increased costs, particularly in the health area.  The pension shortfall will increase.   Not funding the pension system is what is making this and next year’s budget possible.

He anticipates the BHE will recommend a 2% increase in the higher education budget ($40M), which may be possible to accomplish.  Targets would be salaries and for affordability.  (There was no discussion of a capital budget.)

He does not know if the rumored selling of the student loan program will occur.  There is no legislative support for this so it may be done administratively through the Governor’s appointees. BHE is not taking a stand on this possibility since it is the responsibility of another board. There is no assurance the one-time dollars obtained would go to the higher education budget. An FAC member noted the raid on college license plate revenues bodes ill. The sale could have relatively little impact; alternatively it could be a disaster.  Student loan costs would rise and the state would still need to maintain an outreach program to help students identify sources of aid.  One member noted that median income has been flat in large segments of downstate Illinois given inflation and any cost increase lessens affordability at a time we need to increase the number of students being educated.

The group discussed the possibility of setting goals such as a 5-year plan to increase the number of freshman college students by 5% with the BHE estimating the resources needed.  This would move from a focus on a year when funds are not available to future needs of the state and students.  This might change the focus of discussion and enable the public and legislators to assess the need to support education for the state is to prosper.

During its business meeting the FAC adopted a resolution honoring the service of Tom Lamont as Acting BHE Director. The group discussed at length the role of the FAC. There is concern that the FAC has no impact on the Board and that it needs to speak on behalf of higher education faculty to a broader range of publics including legislators and the public. This was countered by concern about a lack of resources needed to undertake such a role although faculty at institutions represented on the FAC can have a significant impact.

It was agreed to try to develop one or more papers that would speak to a broader audience than the BHE.    Topics would include such ideas as higher education being a societal good, meriting support as education is central to surviving in an increasingly competitive environment, responding to changing needs by providing enhanced education opportunity and seeking to serve a much larger population of students diverse in age, goals and race.

Newly appointed BHE Executive Director Judy Erwin met with the FAC during the afternoon session. She reviewed her prior activities and indicated some of her priorities.  One was to get people not involved in higher education to stress the importance of higher education and the urgency of supporting it. Another was to provide a much more complete database tracking students as they move through the education system.  A third area is enhancing the diversity of faculty and staff..  Remediation is a major problem as is the need to improve the quality of education students receive K-12.

She urged FAC members to be in contact with their campus government affairs office. She stressed the importance of using internship programs to link students to politicians, whether  candidates or elected.  Legislators need volunteer help and urged faculty and students to become involved in everything from stuffing envelopes to getting voters to the polls.

She stressed that the BHE is a coordinating board with limited powers.  She promised to try to tell the governor and legislators what they need to know but stressed the limitations faced given many competing priorities.  She believes the Board should be more proactive and build linkages with others. Higher education needs to develop partnerships to get everyone moving in the same direction.  A key question is how to get legislators, the governor and the public to realize the importance of higher education.  We cannot do this just by saying how important or good we are or by suggesting in any sense,  “They just don’t get it.”  Nothing will turn off an official or legislator more rapidly and completely than that.

Ken Andersen
UIUC Senate FAC Representative