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Bill limits university spending on executive searches

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SPRINGFIELD — Some Illinois lawmakers want public universities to stop paying to hire top leaders.

By Anthony Brino

SPRINGFIELD — Some Illinois lawmakers want public universities to stop paying to hire top leaders.

The Senate Higher Education Committee will consider Tuesday a proposal to bar publicly funded universities from using tax or tuition money to pay for outside firms to hire executives, such as coaches and top administrators.

State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, is spearheading the bill, which passed the House, 91 to 9, in March. Rose said university spending on executive search firms is unfair when tuition costs keep rising and staff members face layoffs.

"It's a complete and utter disregard for any fiduciary obligation to tax dollars and students," Rose said.

The University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana — the state's largest university and Rose's alma mater — paid an executive search firm $150,000 to find a new president in 2010, and another $150,000 on an in-house search committee, said Tom Hardy, a university spokesman.

Hardy said that $300,000 came from revenue generated through research grants called "Indirect Cost Recovery funds," not tax or tuition dollars, and that searches for coaches are paid with money from athletic programs.

Jay Groves, spokesman for Illinois State University in Normal, said the school has occasionally used search firms for administrators, and those costs are typically paid for with state and tuition money.

Glenn Poshard, president of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, said the university has used both in-house committees and executive search firms to find top leaders.

"We'll get the job done one way or the other, if that's what the Legislature wants," Poshard said. "I just don't know how much you're going to save."

 

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