Lawmaker pushes for changes to college presidents’ severance pay

SPRINGFIELD — The stories of pay, perks, and parachutes for Illinois’ college leaders, particularly at College of DuPage and the University of Illinois, are getting attention these days. It seems the only thing more lucrative than being in charge of these places is being fired from being in charge of these places.

It’s time to get it all under control, says State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago). He has convened a subcommittee to consider legislation that would, among other things, cap severance pay for these presidents and chancellors at a year’s salary and benefits.

The “arms race,” as Cunningham calls the quest for high-priced administrative talent, is having a negative effect, he says. “We’re seeing an out-migration of university students, and it’s largely because of cost. The rate of tuition growth at our state universities has gone up about 83 percent over the last ten years. Administrative costs have gone up over thirty percent during that time frame.”

As for the concern about losing the competition for the best administrators if Illinois imposes some kind of restriction, Cunningham says, “That’s the first argument we get from the universities, and, frankly, I’m a little aggravated by it.”