IBHE defends guidelines to evaluate universities

By Brian Slupski

The “assassin” took time out Wednesday to defend its “hit list.”

The Illinois Board of Higher Education defended guidelines it has established to judge the quality of programs and services at state universities. Critics have dubbed the guidelines “hit lists” because they imply that many programs will be eliminated.

The guidelines have caused an uproar on campuses as deans and chairs evaluate programs which, under the guidelines, may be considered unproductive. NIU must get a report to the IBHE by Oct. 1.

IBHE staff members are also looking at NIU programs under the guidelines, and they, like NIU, will submit a report to the IBHE.

IBHE Deputy Director Ross Hodel said the IBHE staff members are also evaluating NIU programs because they will look at the programs from a state-wide perspective. He said the staff members will be comparing the programs between the schools.

The guidelines include items like the number of majors enrolled in a program, the cost of the program and the number of non-major credit hours generated by a program.

He said the IBHE as a staff came up with 25 guidelines to give the universities guidance and a starting point for productivity improvement.

Hodel said the guidelines grew out of a letter written by IBHE chairman Arthur Quern.

“Quern wanted higher education to embark on a number of major initiatives,” Hodel said. “He wanted the universities to prioritize, to do the things they did best and stop doing things they did not.

“In the context of the state’s economy, we had to find a way to generate money for higher education. One way to do this is to stop doing things we don’t do well,” Hodel said.

Hodel emphasized that the process is not limited to programs, but covers five areas—administration, instruction, public service and research, other academic functions and state policies.

However, Hodel said, in NIU’s case “it is probably true that the emphasis is on academics.”

Cheryl Peck, Board of Regents chancellor’s assistant, said the IBHE can’t force the universities to cut anything.

However, she said, “the IBHE can recommend cuts, and the BOR and universities take those recommendations very seriously.”

Peck said the IBHE plays a coordinating role between the universities. She said only a university governing board, like the Regents, can make cuts.

“The prevailing attitudes at universities are that they want to scrutinize themselves rather than having a (group) outside the university do it,” Peck said. “This is an appropriate attitude because the university is much closer to its programs.”