020415CM0664Review prompted by recent abuses

SPRINGFIELD — In the wake of questionable executive severance deals at state universities and community colleges, the Illinois Senate’s Higher Education Committee is creating a fact-finding subcommittee to steer reform efforts and ensure tuition and tax dollars are used responsibly.

“Taxpayers are demanding to know how we compensate administrators, why we are compensating them and what safeguards we can put in place to end the type of abuses we’ve recently seen,” said Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago), who heads the new Subcommittee on Executive Compensation.

The issue was thrust into the spotlight after the College of DuPage inked a more than $750,000 severance deal with president Robert Breuder to have him quit early. Nearly a year ago, Illinois State University cut a similar deal worth $480,000 with its president. The lavish deals come at a time when tuition and fees have nearly doubled over the past decade and the average Illinois college student is saddled with more than $28,000 in debt.

"This money could be better spent on providing an affordable, world-class college education for students. It could be used to offer much needed tuition relief for families. Taxpayers cannot afford to pay for six-figure golden parachutes, shooting club memberships and other lavish perks for public servants," said state Senator Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat who will also serve on the subcommittee.

The fact-finding subcommittee is the latest effort by Senate Democrats to bring accountability to campus spending. In recent weeks, suburban lawmakers have pushed to rein in severance deals.

“The priorities for state universities and community colleges should be to educate our children, not betraying our constituents by handing out golden parachutes to administrators,” said state Senator Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat. “There is an obvious need for reforms to the way they use taxpayer dollars to ensure institutions are advancing educational opportunities, not administrators’ pockets.”   

Senator Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, is also sponsoring accountability legislation.“These institutions should be paying people to teach and lead, not paying them to quit,” said Bush.