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February 20, 2006

University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign Senate

HE.06.06 Report on the Illinois Board of Higher Education Meeting, December 6, 2005.

Meeting at the UIC Medical School Union, the BHE took no action specific to UIUC.  Chair James Kaplan, opened the meeting at 9:10 a.m. with several comments: The BHE staff is looking at ways for emeritus faculty to help their or other institutions as suggested in the October discussion of Board members and FAC.   Participation in the Midwest Higher Education Compact (MHEC) has brought member institutions savings of $27M net after dues.  Others will be urged to join.  Ohio has begun remediation for students wanting to go to college but lacking skills in the 10th grade. Workforce development, higher education cost savings, and student access are important issues in every state.

Judy Erwin, newly appointed BHE Director, distributed information on Board rules and Illinois statutes to the Board.  The BHE has completed budget meetings with institutions.  Faculty retention and attracting new faculty emerged as important issues.  Naming rights for universities receiving gifts seems to be resolved.  A legislative proposal to make BHE the chief procurement officer for all public universities was not passed but may move in the spring session.  BHE is not seeking this power. A bill has been drafted to resolve some of the problems created by changes enacted last session relative to pensions.  She pushed for an integrated data system to track students through their education.

Advisory reports typically commended the work of Thomas Lamont and expressed interest in working with the new Director.  Some expressed opposition to selling the ISAC loan system and concern for preserving any monies for higher education.
The Board adopted resolutions commending the service of Thomas Lamont, now special counsel to the U of I President, emphasizing his work as Acting Director of BHE and to retiring Board member J. Robert Barr.

Carol Twigg of the National Center for Academic Transformation made an extended report on Pew Trust sponsored efforts to apply technology to reduce costs, increase quality, leverage existing investments in technology, build capacity to redesign other courses and serve more students with less funding.  She argued that we need to break the view that more resources equals higher quality.  Much use of technology has not lowered costs, just transformed the way lectures or seminars are conducted.  Technology used in this fashion increases costs.  In studies focused on large enrollment courses in a range of fields, they were able to reduce costs an average of 37% with improvements in quality of learning in 25 of 30 cases and had fewer students dropping courses.

The course redesign had the following characteristics:

The unit and discipline do the redesign with faculty controlling the process.

The study provided $220K grants to 30 institutions and used “the willing.” Redesigns took about 18 months.  Having shown savings and quality improvements, they now believe institutions can and should do this without outside grant support.   Savings were in fewer faculty, greater use of graduate and undergraduate students as part of the instructional team, savings in textbook costs, use of existing technology.

President White stressed that most of our costs are production costs involving faculty and support for learning.  He noted tremendous changes in manufacturing costs and that effort is now hitting higher education as we bring industrial methods to what is a “craft enterprise.” This is a very difficult thing to do but we are already doing it. What Twigg described is under way at Illinois.  The challenge is not to get started but to increase the change of pace.  Student numbers and non-traditional staff numbers are up; automation is under way. But not all courses can be done this way and not enough money saved.  White suggested that even if the optimistic report of cost savings claimed is “cut in half, this is still good stuff.” The challenge to each public university should be “What is your plan?”

Board member Taslitz said the BHE is not just responsible for the U of I and asked how to force other institutions to do this.  He also saw this as a means to lower tuition.

The November 9 Educational Summit in Chicago was termed  “by an overwhelming consensus” a success. A real decline in Illinois average income is projected. Illinois needs to do a better job of educating adults and its youth.  Stress given to the importance of K-16 focus not K-12.  Many legislators and staff, individuals from business and educational leaders were involved.  One recommendation was that the conference be a two-day event.

In other action the Board adopted proposed rules on health service education grants to permit refocusing 10% of the funds each year to underfunded areas.  Four schools presented brief reports on effective practices they had initiated.  Operating and degree granting authority were approved for various community college, independent and four-year institutions.  The report on community college baccalaureate access (opposing offering bachelor’s degrees by community colleges) was presented as information and will be acted upon in February.  A progress report on the Illinois Commitment was given.

Ken Andersen
FAC to the IBHE Representative