From: Richard A. Goldberg, Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs
To: Members of the General Assembly
Date: January 19, 2016
Re: CSU: Lobbyists & Administrators Win, Students & Taxpayers Lose
Over the last few days, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle along with key university officials publicly agreed with the Administration that we must reform the way Illinois public universities spend taxpayer money. University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen said “he agrees with some of the concerns about excessive spending at public universities raised by an aide to Governor Bruce Rauner.” Democratic Senator Bill Cunningham said “bills are in the works to deal with some of the issues raised by Goldberg.”
At the same time, however, some university officials continue to reject reform and would rather double down on a broken system that spends tuition money without accountability or transparency. According to the Associated Press, Chicago State University spokesman Tom Wogan claimed the “characterizations of the state’s universities” contained in last week’s memo “do not fit 148-year-old Chicago State” because it doesn’t “have private jets, our president doesn’t have a country club membership.”
Mr. Wogan – a former aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan and operative for the Democratic Party of Illinois – must not remember an interview he gave to Fox 32’s Dane Placko just a few months ago in which he defended giving the university’s president a “spectacular mansion on historic Longwood Drive in Beverly” where the school “has paid more than $32-thousand dollars just for landscaping and sprinkler service alone since 2013.” Recent reports of wasteful spending, corruption and low academic performance at Chicago State are plentiful. Sadly, minority and disadvantaged students are among the worst served at Chicago State.
Chicago State Is Failing Their Students
· While 83% of white CSU students graduate in six years, only 19% of African-American students and 15% of Latino students do the same. On average across Illinois public universities, white students have a 61% graduation rate while African Americans have a 39% graduation rate. In Illinois, Chicago State has the second lowest graduation rate for African-American students (behind NEIU’s 8% graduation rate) and the second highest graduation rate for white students (behind UIUC’s 87% graduation rate).
· According to data from the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Chicago State’s enrollment fell by 45 percent from 1996 to 2014.
· For those full-time students who enrolled in 2006, 4% graduated in four years while 21% graduated in six years. For those who enrolled in 2008, those numbers got worse: 2% graduated in four years, 19% graduated in six years. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, that puts CSU in the 2nd worst percentile nationwide.
· According to a recent Brookings Institute study, Chicago State ranks in the 6th worst percentile for the average mid-career income of its graduate.
Financial Mismanagement and Misconduct
In November 2015, just a couple of months ago, a former Chicago State University Vice President was indicted for hiring her mother in a ghost payroll scheme.
· In 2014, a jury awarded $3 million in back pay and damages to a former CSU employee who was fired by Chicago State’s former president in retaliation for reporting alleged misconduct by the president and others.
· In 2013, Chicago State was fined $311,963 by the federal government for allowing failing students to remain enrolled and continue collecting federal student aid. According to the Chicago Tribune, students with grades as low as 0.0 were allowed to register for classes, in part to boost enrollment.
· According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago State doled out huge salary raises to school administrators. The Tribune reported that former Chicago State President Wayne Watson fired CSU’s Vice President of Administration and Finance after the latter raised questions about the salary increases.
· According to the Office of the Auditor General, during Chicago State’s most recent compliance audit, auditors found that the university could not locate $276,584 worth of university property.
Lobbyists and Administrators Win, Taxpayers Lose
· According to the Secretary of State’s records, Chicago State employs two firms to lobby the state on the university’s behalf: Taylor K. Anderson and James A. Deleo & Associates. At present, we do not have access to their contracts to assess compensation.
· According to a 2013 Auditor General report, CSU had, by far, the highest ratio of administrators to students of any state university – one administrator for every 17.7 students. The next highest was the University of Illinois system with one administrator for every 29.7 students.
· According to the Auditor General, Chicago State spent 45 percent of its total payroll on administrators and 55 percent on faculty – the worst ratio of any state university. The next highest was the University of Illinois system, which spent 31 percent of its payroll on administrators and 69 percent on faculty.
· According to the Auditor General, Chicago State’s administrator salaries cost $3,609 per student – the highest of any state university. The next highest was the University of Illinois system whose administrator salaries cost $2,960 per student.
· According to the Auditor General, Chicago State had the second fewest students of nine state universities and university systems, but the third most administrators.
· According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Chicago State spent $114,762 per undergraduate completion (degrees and certificate programs) in 2013 – significantly more than the $90,406 per completion average for all Illinois public universities and the $66,436 per completion average for all U.S. public universities.
The Way Forward
The General Assembly cannot turn a blind eye to the rampant financial mismanagement inside the university system that hurts academic performance and sends tuition costs skyrocketing. Rather than creating a cash flow crisis by appropriating hundreds of millions of dollars in General Revenue Funds for MAP or general higher education without accompanying spending reductions or cost-saving reforms, let’s find a sensible and responsible way to fund MAP and higher education by tying such funding to other spending reductions or cost-saving reforms.