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February 23, 2009

Report on the IBHE Faculty Advisory Council Meeting of December 5, 2008

The Faculty Advisory Council (FAC) of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) met on Friday December 5, 2008 at the President Abraham Lincoln hotel in Springfield, IL. Special guests in attendance were Judy Erwin, IBHE Executive Director and Mike Bumgartner, IBHE Executive Deputy Director for Planning and Budgeting.  The meeting was called to order at 9 AM by Chair John Bennett.  Following is a summary of the discussions/actions by the Council.

A. Business Meeting:

Public Agenda for Illinois Higher Education: Chair Bennett reported that the Board will consider adoption of the Public Agenda for Illinois Higher Education at its meeting on December 11, 2008.  According to the Board, the report “… is a planning blueprint for the State of Illinois to direct state policies and resources to the higher education and career needs of Illinois residents and to address the current and future economic needs of the state.”  The Board further notes, “The purpose of the planning initiative is to develop an action agenda, based on quantifiable evidence, for institutions, state education agencies, and the Governor and General Assembly to address the education, workforce, social, and economic needs of the State by setting priorities, developing policies, and allocating resources.”  Once approved by the Board, the document will be forwarded to the General Assembly as a master plan for higher education in Illinois for the next decade.  An electronic copy of the Public Agenda document is available at:

Discussion on Cost of Textbooks: The IBHE Student Advisory Council (SAC) has been considering options to reduce cost of textbooks to students.  Following a discussion of the subject by FAC, the group asked Chair Bennett to convey our general support to SAC for its efforts in reducing cost of textbooks.  However, FAC asked Chair Bennett to communicate to the SAC the following points:  textbook selection is a pedagogical decision and should be made by course instructors based on the best educational value offered to students; textbook costs are a portion of the overall cost of education and should be put in perspective; often instructors implement plans to reduce textbook costs to students through creative ways.  FAC further asked Chair Bennett to solicit SAC’s assistance in addressing the very pressing and dire Illinois higher education fiscal crisis.

FAC Statement on the Developments at the College of DuPage: According to the November 24, 2008 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Faculty members and students at the College of DuPage, a large community college in suburban Chicago, are protesting a list of 230 policy changes proposed by the Board of Trustees, reports the Naperville Sun. The policies would give trustees more power over curricular, governance, and hiring decisions at the college. Also included is the ‘academic bill of rights’ pushed by David Horowitz, a proposal that many faculty members view as an encroachment on their authority.”  FAC discussed and approved a statement on the subject to be communicated to IBHE for its affirmation.  The FAC statement points out that policies and procedures adopted by policy making bodies should support and enhance the academic mission of higher education institutions and assure that they remain bastions of free thought and expression, including that which is unpopular or critical.  The statement further emphasizes assurance of the individuals’ rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.  The FAC statement was adopted unanimously by the group and is to be forwarded to the IBHE by the FAC Chair.

B. Presentation on the Fiscal Outlook for Higher Education in the State:

Mike Baumgartner, IBHE Executive Deputy Director for Planning and Budgeting, distributed material and discussed the Illinois higher education finances’ past, present and potential future.  He pointed out the significant role of the Illinois Public Agenda (see item A.1 above) and noted that it will drive the higher education agenda for the next decade.  Baumgartner observed that the prospects for the 2010 budget year are not good.  According to material distributed by Baumgartner, State of Illinois’ higher education budget has been reduced from approximately $2,675,980,000 in 2002 down to approximately $2,594,560,000 (with reserves) in 2009.  This change reflects a 3% reduction in Illinois higher education budget over this period (1.9% reduction over 2008-09 with reserves).  Over the same period, Illinois public universities’ state budget went down by approximately $144,162,000, a reduction of about 9.6%.  Other changes during the same period include the following: 3.7% increase in the Money Award Program (MAP) of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), a reduction of 3.2% in ISAC’s Other Grant Programs and an increase of about 65% in the Retirement category.  According to the documents distributed at the meeting, there exists enough uncertainty to make estimating the FY 2009 revenues difficult.  The documents further note extending that forecast horizon to FY 2010 compound challenges.

C. Briefing and Discussion by IBHE Executive Director:

Judy Erwin, IBHE Executive Director, gave a brief assessment of the state’s current fiscal status and its potential future prospects.  She noted that some believe Illinois economy may bottom out in late spring of 2009, thus making 2010 our worst budget year during the current economic crisis.  Given that Mike Baumgartner had just had a discussion with FAC on the state’s higher education budget, IBHE Executive Director focused more on future plans.  Erwin concentrated on what FAC institutions can do to help the future of higher education in Illinois despite the difficult economic situation and repeated the phrase a number of times, “A crisis is a horrible thing to waste.” 

Director Erwin emphasized the relationship between economic development and education and stated that it is important for Illinois institutions to increase the number of students from lower income families attaining baccalaureate degrees.  She observed that rigor, alignment and expectation levels at our middle and high schools present room for improvement.  Erwin added that if we want our college students to succeed, we should care about the quality of education they obtain in feeder schools.  She added that some states are using data to drive policy.  For example, some argue that when students end up in remedial education, the state is paying for their education again.  She expressed the need for data and focus on the outcome to address such issues and observed that State of Illinois does not currently have such data.  Erwin added that IBHE is taking steps in developing such tools and mentioned Charlie Evans of University of Illinois as a key participant in that effort.

IBHE Executive Director then turned to what FAC members and institutions can do to be more instrumental in Illinois’ higher education future.  She specifically noted three major areas of activities by IBHE that have the potential to benefit from help from FAC institutions: data collection and focus on outcome, implementation of the Public Agenda and The American Diploma Project (Creating a High School Diploma That Counts).

The meeting adjourned at 2:45 PM.

Respectfully submitted,
Abbas Aminmansour