Edgar discusses Regents dismissal

By Brian Slupski

Gov. Jim Edgar announced Thursday that legislation which could eliminate the Board of Regents and give NIU its own governing board will be introduced to the Illinois General Assembly in the next few weeks.

Edgar, who was in Sycamore for a Republican party fundraiser, said there is a lot of interest in realigning the higher education governance system.

“For several years there’s been many in higher education who felt the current governing system is out of date,” Edgar said.

He said the current governing system is not the best and that local individual boards would better serve the universities.

However, Edgar said even though there is a lot of support in higher education for the proposed reforms, he doesn’t anticipate many higher education officials publicly supporting them.

“I don’t expect to have to many administrators publicly say they’re for this since they have to report to these boards … but over the years there’s been a lot of private talk in support of this from administrators,” Edgar said.

Edgar did say he was expecting some opposition to the legislation. “Of course there’s opposition, those whose jobs are involved aren’t in favor of it,” Edgar said. “I’ve heard some of the unions don’t want to have to bargain with individual boards.”

Edgar said it was too early to tell how the General Assembly would react to such legislation.

“I never try to predict what the Illinois General Assembly might do, until they do it,” he said.

Edgar also said that public higher education was not being downsized, but that duplications among universities are being eliminated.

Edgar said the universities should make an effort for students to realistically be able to graduate in four years and that the universities shouldn’t try to be all things to all people.

“One of the frustrations I have, and I think most people do, is that it’s almost impossible for students to get a four-year degree in four years.

“And that’s not because money has not been provided, it’s because, unfortunately I think we offer too many classes that not many students want to take. Some of the universities try to be all things to all people. Every university can’t be the University of Illinois,” Edgar said.

He said he thought universities had to prioritize and that such prioritizing might result in some courses not being offered and some programs eliminated.

“Higher education has maybe lost sight that the major priority, I believe, is to make sure we provide a quality undergraduate education.

“I think the doctoral programs are great, research is great, but I want to make sure students who are trying to get a four-year education can get it in four years,” Edgar said.