Asserting that higher-education administrators in Illinois take advantage of growing salaries and expensive perks with little accountability, Democratic state senators want to place limits on the compensation and privileges bestowed by public institutions.
The Senate Democratic Caucus Investigative Report on Executive Compensation at Illinois Higher Education Institutions, noting that administrative compensation has been receiving a disproportionate share of revenue increases at colleges and universities, spells out some of the extravagant compensation provided to top administrators at the state’s public institutions, and calls for changes to rein in the spending.
“At the same time tuition and student debt are rising at a breakneck pace, the administrative systems of public institutions have expanded into sprawling behemoths, with some of those at the very top enjoying lavish perks, including expense accounts, club memberships, vehicles, and golden parachute severance payments. Despite the state’s transparency laws, many of these agreements are done in secret, denying the public the right to weigh in on the appropriateness of such generous packages, while students suffocate under non-dischargeable debt.”
The report proposes several reforms:
- Limiting the length of employment contracts
- Restricting severance pay to one year’s salary
- Requiring that any performance-based bonuses be approved by an institution’s board.
- Mandating that performance reviews must be made publicly available 48 hours prior to a board’s taking action on a contract
- Prohibiting contract provisions that provide memberships to country clubs or similar social organizations
To provide greater transparency on contracts, the reports wants to require boards of trustees to comply with all opens meetings and freedom of information provisions. It wants all final contracts, including annuities, bonuses, housing, vehicles, technology, club memberships, and retirement enhancements, to be made public 30 days before a board vote; and it wants to require institutions to make board minutes, board packets, and annual performance reviews available on the Internet.
The report says that although the state’s operating support for public universities has declined by 7 percent over the last decade, the corresponding increase in tuition and fee revenue has enabled public universities in Illinois to grow by more than 5 percent annually.
“Much of this revenue growth has been used to support an increasingly larger bureaucracy and excessive administrative salaries,” the report says.
Democrats in the Illinois Senate called earlier this year for the examination of higher-education compensation in light of public outcry over a severance agreement that the College of DuPage, based in Glen Ellyn, approved for its president, Robert Breuder. In January, the college’s board of trustees approved a severance package that will pay Breuder more than $750,000 when he retires in March 2016.
The Chicago Tribune has reported that federal authorities and DuPage County prosecutors are investigating spending by Breuder and the college board. The newspaper says administrators spent more than $190,000 on food and beverages (including alcohol) over the last three years at an upscale campus restaurant.
“The ongoing and chronic habits of the College of DuPage to not only provide lavish compensation and a high-rolling lifestyle to its administrators, but to obfuscate the decision-making process as well, points to a general problem with transparency and compliance with established law,” the report says.