High pay, pension costs driving up tuition at WIU, other schools, analysts contend
The Illinois Policy Institute has offered some insight into the higher education crisis facing Western Illinois University (WIU) and the state’s other public institutions, which are locked in a cycle of high administrative costs, high pension costs and increased tuition and fees.
According to the report by Vice President of Policy Ted Dabrowski and policy analyst John Klingner, WIU has increased its tuition and fees by 87 percent over the past 10 years, from $6,899 in 2006 to $12,899 in 2016.
The increases come as the proportion of state funding directed to higher education retirement costs nears that directed to higher education operational costs, and as universities bring on more administrative staff, the writers contend.
In 2006, the state spent 17 percent of its higher education funding on retirement costs. By 2015, that figure had soared to 53 percent because of high salaries for top university employees and a retirement system wherein even average retirees receiving full pension benefits stand to earn a lifetime payout of more than $1 million.
Public universities have also seen massive growth in their administrative staffs, with the number of administrators increasing at a rate of 31.1 percent between 2004 and 2010 despite the growth rates of faculty and students being only 1.8 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively. According to the report, more than half of the administrators have base salaries of $100,000 or more.
“The higher-education crisis has not resulted from Illinois’ budget gridlock,” Dabrowski and Klingner argue. “Rather, skyrocketing pensions, bloated administrative costs and soaring tuition and fees for students have caused it. These are all self-inflicted wounds.”