A report from Illinois lawmakers has found that state university and community college presidents have enjoyed lavish perks, some worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, that aren’t always disclosed to taxpayers.
According to the report, some of those perks include a $32,000 housing allowance for the president of Harper College, a $450,000 retention bonus for a former University of Illinois at Chicago chancellor and $30,000 toward two retirement plans in addition to state pension contributions for the Elgin Community College president.
The report takes issue with the total compensation paid to university and college presidents, saying the amount spent on faculty “has not kept pace with the dramatic increase in spending on administrative” salaries.
Among the highest-paid community college presidents in the state is Dale Chapman, of Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey.
Chapman’s total compensation last year was $423,259, second-highest among the state’s community college presidents.
The report also calls out public universities and community colleges statewide for providing “excessive fringe benefits” and lucrative exit deals for top administrators, including a $480,418 severance package to the former Illinois State University president after less than a year on the job.
“This has led to a culture of arrogance and a sense of entitlement reflected in many of these executive compensation plans, with an apparent disregard for middle-class families whose taxes and tuition dollars are funding these exorbitant salaries and excessive fringe benefits,” according to the report.
Colleges long have defended the benefits as a way to attract and retain talented administrators. They also maintain that certain perks, like club memberships, provide administrators opportunities to meet and entertain donors and other community members.
A Senate panel investigated the benefits as the state deals with a budget crisis and outcry over tuition costs. The panel plans to push several reforms, including audits and severance pay restrictions.
Democratic state Sen. Bill Cunningham, who is chairman of a higher education subcommittee on executive compensation, said he hopes to hold hearings on the report this summer and pass legislation in the fall.
“In these tough financial times, there is no justification for some of these perks,” Cunningham said.
Chapman, of Lewis & Clark, noted he’s been president at Lewis & Clark for 23 years. He said if presidents at other community colleges had similar lengths of tenure, their salaries would be similar to his.
“The reason I stand out is because of my longevity,” he said. “I’m actually in the middle of the salary range, or would be.”
In 2010, Chapman retired in order to get access to his pension, then was rehired after two months. He was having financial trouble at the time, due in part to a bad real estate deal. Chapman said he took a lump-sum payment of “about a million.” According to the State Universities Retirement System, the lump-sum payount was about $1.8 million.
Chapman said he had to start over with his pension after he was rehired, but he’s “probably close” to being eligible for another pension. His current contract runs through 2019.
The total compensation last year for Georgia Costello, president at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville, was $205,905.
The total compensation last year for Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe was $307,421.