March 31, 2008
University of Illinois
HE.08.09. Report on the IBHE Faculty Advisory Council Meeting, February 15, 2008.
The FAC met at Western Illinois University. The group observed a moment of silence in memory of the students killed at Northern Illinois University.
WIU President Al Goldfarb (current chair of the Council of Presidents of the state universities in Illinois) said he is increasingly worried about the privatization of public higher education. Access to higher education is becoming harder and harder. The cost of caring for facilities is being placed on the backs of students with no capital bill in six years. We urgently need renewal and repair of buildings: “Why should students pay for renovation of buildings belonging to the state?” Tuition is a user tax. The great contribution of higher education to Illinois gets lost in the conversation on state needs. Many of today’s leaders owe their position to the opportunity to get an education at minimal cost.
Senator John Sullivan (member, higher ed committee in the Senate) sponsored the capital bill in the Senate last session (held in House Rules) and is ‘‘a great supporter of higher education.” Legislators are very apprehensive about the governor's budget address. State finances are not good: $6-8M hole in this year’s budget is due to overestimated growth more than the drop in revenue. Fiscal challenge is to fill in this year’s deficit and try to get a balanced budget in fy09. Either we get more revenue or we cut expenses: he favors increasing the revenue stream. “What has been done for K-12 is phenomenal but higher education has moved backwards.” He applauded the IBHE budget statements recognizing the need for more funds. He see the key higher education issues as affordability, enhancing faculty and staff salaries, improving the student pipeline, workforce needs, and protecting our investment in faculty. Even at step five of the BHE budget we would only be back at 1992 levels of funding adjusted for inflation.
He sees gambling as the only funding source getting bipartisan support in the Senate.
P-20 is a needed new emphasis—we need to look at the total package and education must speak as one voice. We need to have serious discussions about pension funding, an amendment permitting a graduated income tax, and selling the lottery. The legislature is not off to a good start. Tensions remain high in the House—the leaders and the governor have never liked each other.
Sue Kaufman of the UPI and Higher Education Legislative Coalition (HELC) endorsed the statements of Goldfarb and Sullivan. The groups she represents oppose the idea of a constitutional convention and contacts with the business community suggest it does as well. Privatization of higher education is a major problem. Education must speak with one voice; it must not be fractionated. One chance to make an impression on legislators is through the rally day on April 9 sponsored by SEIU and AFSME among others to be held in the IEA parking lot in Springfield. A HELC reception for legislators is planned for February 27 to urge support for education.
The afternoon business session was devoted almost entirely to reviewing plans for the FAC’s extended presentation to the April IBHE meeting. A concern was expressed about the backlog of work at the BHE office. The explanation was that there is a shortage of staff and thus an inability to move all the paper.
A resolution was adopted extending condolences to the students, faculty, and staff at NIU.
UIUC Senate FAC Representative