Task force to change focus

By Brian Slupski

Although Gov. Jim Edgar’s task force on higher education remains on hold, the committee’s focus has changed.

Edgar announced the formation of a task force to look at the way higher education was governed in his April budget address. The committee was formed after state legislators sponsored bills to change the higher education governing system.

Board of Regents Chancellor’s Assistant Cheryl Peck said the task force made two recommendations for changes to the system, but Edgar has not acted on either.

The committee suggested organizing the universities by region, types of institution and giving greater control to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Gary Laszewski, assistant for education to Lt. Gov. Robert Kustra, said the task force is now “on hold.”

He said Edgar and Kustra have to meet and decide what the task force will concentrate on now that it is finished reviewing the structure of the university system.

“The governor said that both recommendations were good options, but he wanted to see them combined into one recommendation,” Laszewski said.

He said the second phase of the task force will be set when Kustra and Edgar meet. However, he said, there was coordination between the IBHE and the task force in the area of productivity evaluation.

Peck said the task force now has become concerned with the productivity of the universities.

“This is another effort to streamline higher education in Illinois,” Peck said.

The IBHE is attempting to streamline universities with a set of guidelines. The Priority, Quality and Productivity guidelines were created to judge the productivity of academic programs.

The task force in its report to Edgar stated, “The system of higher education in Illinois does need streamlining and a serious review of the administration must be undertaken. The work being done by the IBHE regarding Priorities, Quality and Productivity is helpful and endorsed by the task force. Accountability must be enforced within the entire system.”

The task force also made several recommendations regarding the IBHE:

‘ “Give the IBHE the ability to leverage more control over the spiraling costs of higher education, perhaps through added authority to approve tuition levels.”

‘ “Strengthen the role of the IBHE in the review and approval of new programs of instruction but more importantly, add the authority to eliminate those not academically or economically justified.”