Legislator calls for Chicago State University closure
While public higher education institutions across the state have suffered because of the lack of a balanced state budget, critics say one school, Chicago State University (CSU), shoulders much of the blame for its dire financial situation thanks to administrator bloat.
The state's only public institution serving a predominantly minority, low-income student population has the highest administrator costs in the state at $3,600 per student – a whopping 80 percent higher than the average $2,025 per student administrator cost at all other Illinois colleges and universities.
The hefty per-student cost is fueled by the large number of administrators at CSU. According to 2011 public data analyzed by the Illinois auditor general, CSU reported having roughly one administrator for every faculty member and the third-highest number of administrators of any public university.
State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) said the cost to employ so many nonessential staff members is outlandish.
"They have the most administrators an the highest administrator cost per student as well," Ives said. "They are not a flagship school. They are not a University of Illinois, which is nationally ranked magnet school. From around the world people want to go to the University of Illinois in Champaign. That is not true at all of Chicago State, and we are spending way too much money."
Making matters worse, a recent Freedom of Information Act request revealed that of 358 full-time academic positions at CSU, the lowest total compensation package was more than $74,000 per year and the highest soared to more than $273,000.
This is particularly concerning considering recent reports revealed Illinois public universities spend more each year on pensions than they receive in state funding.
CSU also suffers from a low graduation rate with recent four-year graduation rate of a mere 11 percent.
Ives said the situation at CSU is unsustainable and is creating negative outcomes for all involved.
"When you are failing that bad, all you are really doing is creating a sinkhole for taxpayer funds and a problem for those students who don’t make it all the way through and have taken on student debt that they must repay," Ives said. "It is a terrible situation all around and more money is not going to solve their problems."
Going forward, Ives said she would like to see a massive change take place.
"Chicago State University, in my opinion, honestly, should be shut down and reconstituted perhaps as a community college where students are given other opportunities or at our other universities around the state where they may have a better support system because it is just bleeding taxpayer money with no results," Ives said.
Unfortunately for students, the first thing to give is increases in tuition and school fees, which jumped to the tune of more than $5,000 over the last 10 years to help cover those staffing costs.
Still, early this year CSU declared a financial emergency and in February sent notices of potential layoffs to all 950 university employees. Since the start of 2016, CSU has laid off almost 400 employees costing the university $2.2 million, mostly in severance pay mandated by a school policy that requires up to a year’s notice of being terminated or a payout for the time.
In July, CSU’s shaky finances got the school sanctioned by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which is responsible for accrediting the university.
Ives said outside influences such as accreditors are needed to fix the problem at CSU but in any case more taxpayer funding is not a solution for CSU.
"I don’t want to put any more money into that university because it is failing its students and the taxpayers," Ives said.
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