University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Senate

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November 5, 2007

University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign Senate

HE.08.01 Report on the IBHE Faculty Advisory Council Meeting, September 21, 2007.

The FAC met at Northern Illinois University. President John Peters welcomed the group.  He said NIU benefited from the dissolution of the old Board of Governors in becoming more student-oriented and doing more research. He bemoaned the loss of a “go-to person” for higher ed in the legislature, a role served by the late Stan Weaver.  He believes there is little the legislature can do if the governor does not support higher education. At the federal level the emphasis is on regulation.  Need to restore the social contract and invest in education and science.  The increases in tuition forced on us by the state are a time bomb. IBHE is seen by legislature as regulators, by faculty as advocates.  When we ask for more support we need to be clear what we offer in return. Higher education must continue to present arguments about its worth.

State Representative Bob Pritchard commented on the disastrous session in Springfield.  The governor (heath), Jones (education), and Madigan (limit budget growth) each laid out their priorities.  The overtime session was all about whose view would prevail.  The governor did not follow any of the rules of leadership.  Pritchard has established an education caucus in the legislature with 90 members listed on his website.  But legislative leaders need to join it. The primary beneficiary of the increases in spending in the House budget bill was education. Pleased that the P-20 Council was legislated.  He is doubtful the Senate’s capital bill will pass in the House and fears there may not be a capital bill for another two years.  Many are willing to consider a tax increase but leadership is not.

Rick Pearce, BHE staff, noted the BHE is completing its own strategic plan.  He sees the P-20 Council as a huge step forward as is the focus on developing a masterplan for higher education.  (Currently unfunded.) Agencies are not represented as members but will collaborate and facilitate the work of masterplanning.  Much work is needed by the Council to enhance the alignment between secondary and higher education.  BHE materials on masterplanning and budget preparation were distributed. A task force on student safety is looking at response and prevention, mental health and legal issues.

Long-time state Senator J. Bradley Burzynski said we need term limits for the leadership in the legislature. A change in the legislature leadership would yield major benefits. Need to deal with the animosity, lack of trust, and inability to get anything done in the legislature.  Concerned about the increased costs of higher ed and opposes freezing tuition.  Concerned about the level of student debt. State needs to address shortages of teachers, nurses, etc. While he voted for the capital funding bill, he is very opposed to the way it proposes to fund the costs: gambling is addictive and bad social policy. No assurance governor will release the funds as he is still holding back some funds approved in the Ryan years.    Difficult to address infrastructure needs: maintenance, new buildings, adequate staff. He is concerned about the future of the state and dilution of efforts: How do we get to where we need to go?  Partisanship has become too dominant.

Summing up, he said this year is nothing compared to what we should expect in Springfield next year. The legislature will be busy undoing the messes of this year.  The situation is going to get worse before it gets better. Higher ed is a stepchild and not often thought about in terms of financial resources. Community colleges fair a little better than the universities.  The legislature needs to know what the needs are: invite legislators to campus; point out the number of students served from their districts. He feels higher ed sells itself short by not asking for what it needs.  One problem is the politicization of boards: they know where the line is drawn and that they are not to pass it.

The business meeting focused on introduction of the many new members, organizational structure for the year and possible topics of future reports.

The next meeting will be at UIUC on October 19.

Ken Andersen
UIUC Senate FAC Representative