Council suggests shift in cuts

By Jami Peterson

A professional union council believes the Illinois Board of Higher Education should shear administrative costs instead of academic programs.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers Universities Council, made up of the University Professionals of Illinois along with local higher education unions, said the IBHE’s report on Priorities, Qualities and Productivity initiative should have focused on administrative costs and the rising amount of money used to fund welfare programs for private universities and colleges.

The report calls for the elimination or curtailment of 109 academic programs in public universities to tighten up higher education costs.

Council President Mitch Vogel said the “rapidly increasing administrative expenses” at colleges and universities should be dropped down to their 1980 levels.

Although these expenses have increased, instructional costs have been cut 10.6 percent over the past decade, he said.

These cuts should be shifted to areas where they have the least effect on students, he said.

Vogel’s assistant Barbara Scott said the council recently conducted a study which found increasing levels of administrative costs. Slicing these costs would take the pressure off of program elimination, she said.

But IBHE Deputy Director Ross Hodel said up to 10 percent of the funds targeted in the PQP effort come from administrative costs. Only 2 to 4 percent of the proposed cuts are in instructional costs, he said.

“I think he (Vogel) should look more closely at our PQP effort because the biggest amount of money in the effort comes out of the administration,” Hodel said.

Vogel’s second problem with the IBHE report involves the amount of money used to fund welfare programs for private colleges and universities.

The IBHE should not be providing the current amount of money in scholarships to private universities, Vogel said.

Scott said the IBHE uses more money to send students to private institutions than to send a student to a public university.

“If the IBHE does not want to totally eliminate the scholarships, they should cut back so the dollars do not exceed the cost of sending a student to NIU,” she said.

However, Hodel said Vogel has been pounding this issue for several years. “This has been a constant theme of Mr. Vogel’s,” he said.

The percentage of funds used for these scholarships has a minimal effect on public university budgets, he said.

“The state has a strong system,” he said.

Vogel said faculty members and students should have been involved in the evaluation process from the beginning.

“My objection is not to the plan itself, but to the process they went through to develop it,” he said.

“How can they see fit to cut public universities without a say on the whole issue from faculty and students? We find that absolutely apprehensible.”

The council plans to schedule hearings at all universities and colleges before the IBHE’s Nov. 24 meeting.

This will allow the council to get faculty and student input on the issue for a report it will present to the IBHE, Vogel said.