State funding requires priority setting

By Eric Krol

The controversial issue of priority setting will be among the main topics of discussion at today’s meeting of the state’s higher education governing body.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) will convene in Chicago and discuss the issue of priority setting which could culminate in the elimination of some degree programs.

A resolution is included in the IBHE agenda which will permit the board members to meet in committee-as-a-whole. This allows the IBHE to discuss the proposal openly with input from all members.

The priority-setting initiative is a result of a letter by IBHE Chairman Arthur Quern which stated the need to set goals and cut costs in the face of limited state funding.

Quern said, “Acting on priorities means that we put our support behind those things most important to our mission.”

“Those things which are not as important to our mission and which we do not do well should be eliminated,” Quern added.

This statement has been interpreted by many in higher education to mean academic programs which turn out few degrees will be cut.

The answers might be found at today’s meeting. “Each issue in its own way poses fundamental priority setting and resource allocation concerns,” Quern said.

IBHE Executive Director Richard Wagner said there is a necessity to prioritize, but at the same time keep educational quality.

Also on the IBHE agenda is a discussion of next year’s budget requests.

Overall, state public universities are requesting a $227 million funding increase of 16.4 percent over last year.

Faculty salary increases represent $120 million of the request while $70 million is requested for program and institutional support.

NIU, as part of the Board of Regents, has requested a 12 percent increase in salary and a 5 percent hike for general costs.

The IBHE also will hear reports from two committees. The Committee to Study Preparation of the Workforce, which has met monthly since October 1990, will give formal recommendations.

The report consists of an examination of the study process, implementation strategies and a list of goals and methods.

The Committee to Study Underserved Areas will report its findings to the IBHE, but not give formal recommendations.

According to the agenda, the committee will suggest development of a telecommunications-based instructional delivery system to take advantage of new technology.