UIC offers unintentional lesson in pension overspending
The University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) is a prime example of the factors driving the state’s higher education crisis: high tuition, compensation and retirement costs, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.
A report by the institute’s vice president of policy, Ted Dabrowski, and policy analyst John Klingner says skyrocketing pensions have taken money from operations at the state’s public universities. Retirement costs account for more than half of higher education spending, with many pensioners standing to earn more than $1 million in benefits over the course of their retirement, according to the report.
The three most-costly pensions in the State University Retirement System (SURS) belong to UIC retirees, as do seven of the top 10. Leslie Heffez, a UIC retiree and oral surgeon, earns an annual pension of $547,000 and stands to receive nearly $18 million over his lifetime, according to estimates based on current life expectancy statistics.
The funding that does go to operational costs at Illinois public universities is further strained by high administrative costs, as universities have made significant additions to their staffs over the past decade. Institutions have also increased the compensation for administrators, exemplified by UIC’s fiscal year 2014 data. The school paid then-Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares a base salary of $437,244, which was more than doubled through additional compensation, for a total of $887,244, making her the highest-paid executive in the state’s public university system in 2014.
The average cost of UIC tuition and fees also increased in the past decade by 74 percent, to $14,816 from $8,498 a year.