IBHE puts off quest for cutting authority

By Jerry Lawrence

Illinois Board of Higher Education Chair Art Quern announced Tuesday at an IBHE meeting in Chicago that he would not continue to seek program-cutting authority from the Illinois General Assembly.

Quern said he might try to get such authority in October after the 12 state public universities show their progress in implementing the controversial Priorities, Quality, and Productivity (PQP) initiative.

“I don’t think the issue is going to go away. I think the board, at some point, will have to address and come to a conclusion about whether it wants, as a board, to go to the legislature and ask for this power,” Quern said after the meeting.

Quern said he was “going to let the next few months go by” and review the possibility of seeking program-cutting authority after the state universities turn in their productivity reports in October.

The main content of NIU’s productivity report will come out of the Academic Planning Council (APC). Two weeks ago, NIU President John La Tourette said he is confident NIU will meet the IBHE’s expectations with the program cuts suggested by the APC.

“I have already indicated that we have met the target the IBHE has set for dollar reallocations (2.3 percent over a three-year period) and the reallocation of resources among functions (especially toward instruction), and it is my conviction that after reviewing the work of the (APC), we will meet the program expectations of the IBHE,” La Tourette said.

Quern is less optimistic.

Quern said after the productivity reports are in, the IBHE will know how serious the universities are about meeting the demands of the PQP initiative.

“At that point in time I think we will be in a better position to determine whether the power for the board to go in and eliminate programs is as important as it currently seems to me,” he said.

Quern’s position on the program-cutting authority has gotten him into an awkward position. In addition to serving as chair of the IBHE, he also served as co-chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education. On Jan. 27, the task force released a report recommending the IBHE not receive the program-cutting authority.

Quern downplayed his involvement with the task force by referring to himself as a member and said he agreed with the recommendation as a member, but did not think the issue was resolved.

“The task force felt this was a better way to go. So as a member of the task force I agreed with it, but I’ve said publicly what I have said here, that is I don’t think the issue is going to go away,” he said.

Before the task force report was released, a resolution was passed by the Illinois General Assembly that said the IBHE would not receive legislative authority to cut programs.

The resolution has been cited as the main cause for the removal of the IBHE program-cutting recommendation from the task force report. In June a preliminary report was released by the task force which included the recommendation.