In Illinois, a Spotlight Is Put on Administrative Bloat

The Illinois State Senate’s Democratic Caucus has released a report on administrative bloat in the state’s colleges and universities. Although much of the focus is on executive compensation and expensive perks, there are many acknowledgements that the issues with executive compensation are indicative of proportionately high compensation throughout the administrative hierarchies of our institutions and of unchecked hiring of administrative support staff.

What is notable about this report is that, although Illinois has chronically underfunded its public pension system, it has maintained fairly high state support for public colleges and universities, especially when compared to other states in the Midwest. So, although it makes sense that legislators in Illinois should be especially cognizant of frivolous uses of tax revenues, it does not really make sense that other state governments that have dramatically reduced support for public higher education should be almost uniformly ignoring the issue of administrative bloat. The explanation would seem to be that, in those other states, there is more of an ideological antipathy toward public education at all levels than any real concern about rising student debt and institutional efficiency. Indeed, when legislators focus on faculty workloads and compensation while ignoring administrative bloat, it seems to reflect an entrenched ideological antipathy toward “liberal” professors and an ideological comfort with unlimited executive compensation.

What follows is the executive summary of the report, but the entire report is very much worth reading and available at:


In February 2015, Senator Bill Cunningham and the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus requested compensation data and employment contracts for selected administrative positions from all 9 public universities and 46 community colleges in Illinois for 2005-2015.

The Senate’s review of this information uncovered:

— Annual compensation totaling $887,244 for one administrator at a public university

— Annuities at community colleges in the amount of $30,000 a year

— Deferred compensation plans in the amount of $75,000 a year

— University- and community college-provided vehicles

— Car and driver service

— Memberships to multiple country clubs and social organizations

— Appointment contracts of over 5 years in length that led to six-figure severance agreements.

While tuition at Illinois’ public institutions has skyrocketed, so has executive compensation. This report finds that tuition increases have coincided with a dramatic increase in administrative costs, including the size of administrative departments and compensation packages for executives.

Furthermore, the process of creating and altering executive compensation packages is one that should be open and transparent to the public, but as events at the College of DuPage show, this process can be subverted.

The Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus recommends legislation and policy changes that would increase accountability for administrators, increase transparency in Board of Trustee proceedings regarding executive compensation agreements, and address accountability for spending.

To address accountability for spending:

— The Auditor General should take over auditing for all community colleges;

— Limits on length of employment contracts; o Limit severance pay to one year’s salary; — Performance-based bonuses must be approved by the board. Performance reviews must be made publically available 48 hours prior to the board’s final decision;

— Contracts will not be allowed to include country club memberships or similar social organizations; and

— Performance bonus payments, sick time payouts, and vacation time payouts cannot be pensionable.

To increase transparency in Board of Trustee proceedings regarding executive compensation agreements:

— The board must comply with all OMA and FOIA provisions in the course of a contract formation, renewal, extension, or termination for employment contracts;

— The final contracts, including all annuities, bonuses, housing, vehicles, technology, club memberships, and retirement enhancements, have to be made public 30 days before the board votes; and

— Board minutes, board packets, and annual performance reviews must be available on the internet.

To increase accountability for administrators: o Annual performance reviews of administrators;

— Pay raises and bonuses in contracts have to be tied to performance reviews of the administrator and the status of the university or college;

— The Illinois Board of Higher Education sets clear standards for performance bonuses for administrators; and

— If any pay raise in the contract would exceed a certain percentage of current base pay, then the Board has to affirm that pay raise by a vote of the Board before it can take effect.


2 thoughts on “In Illinois, a Spotlight Is Put on Administrative Bloat

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don’t impersonate a real person.