University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Senate

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February 25, 2008

University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign Senate

HE.08.06 Report on the IBHE Faculty Advisory Council Meeting, December 7, 2007.

The FAC met in Springfield with staff members of the IBHE.  Pending arrival of IBHE Director Judy Erwin, the group discussed projects for the remainder of the year including an extended presentation to the IBHE and a report designed to help members of the FAC lobby on budget and related higher ed issues with the legislature.  The FAC will meet March 14 at EIU and with the IBHE in late March or early April.

Director Erwin discussed influencing legislature to provide more support for higher ed.  She believes unions have the greatest force in terms of input. She noted that the proposed P-20 commission grew in terms of numbers of people in that the unions wanted a person from every educational level representing both the IEA and AFT and business interests wanted at least an equal voice as did administrators and principals.  Unclear what the focus of the group will be.

Erwin commented that it was shocking what members of the IBH did not know about higher education concerns such as 80% of students entering community colleges need remediation in one or more subject areas.  She stressed that, “The single biggest barrier to success is academic preparation—not money—not that money isn’t important.” In terms of evaluating students it is important what we look at.  Need to look at competencies such as communication skills, critical thinking skills, ability to work together,   Illinois does not have a plan for assessing graduates.  Work is underway to develop a feedback report for high schools on how their graduates fare upon entering college.

Debbie Meisner-Bertauski updated the group on alignment issues: we need problem-solving teams working together to determine proper alignment of community college and four year curricula.

Gary Alexander, IBHE liaison, briefly commented on the need for higher education to be part of one or more coalitions urging support for education and higher education.  Politics is the art of addition, i.e., adding on to what we might otherwise have. (Alexander is leaving the IBHE to assume an academic affairs post in Arkansas.)

Mike Baumgartner distributed several handouts and commented extensively on the relationship of education to the economy and comparisons of Illinois to other states, particularly Midwestern states.  He noted that even if we have a capital budget the governor may embargo the funds and never release them.  Projects are authorized year after year and the funds never released.  More projects are authorized than we have bonding authority to cover.

Illinois higher education is not being treated so badly when compared with other Midwestern states.  Midwestern states as a whole are lagging behind the rest of the country—granted some of the decline is linked to a decline in population.  However, support for higher education is toward the bottom in many respects.  In Illinois, significantly higher tuition is replacing state dollars.  Our publics are increasingly outpacing other publics with higher tuition levels. Community colleges used to be lower than many other states, now higher.

The BHE has not set any goals for the 2009 budget but will be negotiating with the governor and his staff.  The revenue picture is not good:  we are behind where we need to be in terms of revenue for this year’s budget.  We are falling behind in our support of higher education versus other states.  We are not the leader we once were in affordability.  Unless there is a big increase in state revenue, things will only get worse.

Materials distributed painted a picture that merits great concern for the future of Illinois.  Job creation in Illinois lags the nation and median income while still high is declining compared to other states.  Higher paying jobs are being replaced by lower paying jobs.  Adjusted for inflation, real wages have declined for most Illinois workers.  Education is a key factor in employment and in income.  Illinois in recent years had not been investing in public higher education when compared to most states. From fiscal 2001 to 2006 it has declined more than 13% in funds invested per full time student, placing it 6th from the bottom among the 50 states.

The business meeting was very brief with future activity discussed in the morning.  The next meetings will be January 16 at Harold Washington College in Chicago and February 15 at Western Illinois.

Ken Andersen
UIUC Senate FAC Representative