Regents office denies critics’ charges

By Ken Goze

The Board of Regents Chancellor’s Office denied critics’ charges that eliminating the system would cut large amounts of bureaucratic bloat.

A proposed bill, cosponsored by State Reps. Michael Weaver, R-Ashmore, and Brad Burzynski, R-Sycamore, would dissolve the Regents and Board of Governors and place the two systems’ eight schools under the thumb of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

The bill’s supporters argue it would save $3.9 million by eliminating a level of highly-paid administrators. The 11 Regents serve without pay.

Regents Chancellor’s Assistant Cheryl Peck said the Regency System, which governs NIU, Illinois State University in Normal and Sangamon State University in Springfield, is the most cost-effective higher education system in the state.

Peck said the chancellor’s office, which serves as a “secretariat” to the BOR, received only about $1.3 million this year and has the smallest administrative staff of a public higher education governing system in Illinois.

“We’re not bloated with people doing extraneous things,” she said.

Peck said the bill fails to address other problems, such as how the IBHE would continue to serve as a statewide coordinating body for all institutions while governing others.

“The other systems would have to be restructured. The BOR does not object to a genuine review of higher education, but it should not be piecemeal,” Peck said. “There should also be higher education officials involved, not just politicians.”

Peck said tough times are causing the state to look at restructuring plans to save money, but eliminating the Regents should not be seen as a quick fix.

She said the bill would saddle IBHE staff with additional responsibilities, and separate boards for each school would also need support staff. Separate boards were mentioned as a possible amendment to the bill.

Although the bill has gained momentum, including faculty support and an endorsement by Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra, Peck said Regency officials are taking a wait-and-see approach, at least until Gov. Jim Edgar’s April 7 budget address.

“At this point, we’re just paying very close attention. We’re more interested right now in getting ready for the next meeting,” Peck said.