New committee offers hope

A common bureaucratic solution to any problem is to form a committee. In the case of higher education reorganization, it might actually work.

Gov. Jim Edgar gave his dire desires for next year’s state budget on Tuesday. The budget has higher education essentially treading water for another year, requesting the same level of funding as this year. But Edgar’s message also announced a special blue-ribbon committee which will primarily study the structure of higher education.

The committee is co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra and IBHE Chairman Art Quern. One of the prime motivations for the committee has to be the Weaver bill, which would eliminate the Board of Regents. At a time when state coffers are as shallow as a kiddie pool, any cost-saving measure is receiving undivided attention in Springfield. BOR types certainly must be holding their breath because Kustra has been quite vocal about abolishing the BOR in recent weeks.

A committee with the two top state higher education moguls should certainly be able to cut through the red tape and come up with some answers. However, the committee will have to do a rush job—it’s supposed to report its findings to Edgar by June 1. One can certainly question whether the committee, when it finally gets off the ground, will have enough time to conduct a thorough enough investigation. All parties involved should certainly be allowed to present their side of the story.

However, the committee probably represents the best hope to come up with a new system that will more equitably distribute the state higher education dollars.