Blumenthal not shocked by top-heavy CSU's dire financial straits
As the reasons solidify around why Chicago State University (CSU) is in the throes of a debilitating financial emergency, the causes aren’t really a bombshell to Martin “Marty” Blumenthal, the Republican candidate running for the Dist. 58 state House seat.
“The fact that CSU’s administrative staff is bloated is no surprise to me," Blumenthal said. "The high cost of tuition all over the country is due to federal money being spent on hiring more administrators."
In February, CSU -- Illinois’ only public institution serving a predominantly minority, low-income student population -- sent notices of potential layoffs to all 950 university employees. Since the start of 2016, the university has laid off almost 400 employees.
More cuts are expected and several tenured professors have taken positions at other higher education institutions, even accepting lower-rung slots just to ensure they’re employed.
CSU’s layoffs also have cost the university $2.2 million, mostly in severance pay mandated by a school policy that requires up to a year’s notice ahead of being terminated or a payout for the time. In June, CSU spent roughly $1.6 million on severance for about 50 administrators who received lump-sum payments equal to a year's salary.
On top of that, CSU has the highest administrator costs in the state at $3,600 per student – a whopping 80 percent higher than the average $2,025 per student administrator cost at all other Illinois colleges and universities.
The high per-student cost is fueled by the large number of administrators CSU has working there. According to 2011 public data analyzed by the Illinois auditor general, CSU reported having roughly one administrator for every faculty member.
At the same time, the auditor general also found that there are about 18 students for every CSU administrator. Comparatively, the state average is almost 45 students per administrator. This causes cash-flow problems because when a university has almost equal numbers of administrators and faculty members, something’s got to give to cover the costs.
Unfortunately for students, they have suffered through rising tuition and fees that total more than $5,000 for each student over the last 10 years.
Blumenthal, who received his undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Illinois in 1974 and his law degree from Chicago Kent College of Law in 1981, also pointed out another problem.
“Higher pension costs naturally follow with higher administrative salaries," Blumenthal said. "The employer contributions for Illinois public university pensions more than doubled from 2010 to 2014. We may debate whether that rate of change is exponential or geometric, but everyone agrees that it is very large."
In fact, a report from this year revealed that Illinois public universities spend more each year on pensions than they receive from the state to fund the schools.
Likewise, a recent Chicago Tribune FOIA request revealed that of the 358 full-time academic positions at CSU, the lowest total compensation package was over $74,000 per year, while the highest soared to more than $273,000.
Observers wonder why such pay and compensation packages are so high when CSU’s most-recent graduation rate stood at 11 percent.
Blumenthal, who has been an attorney in private practice since 1982, is the director of the Chicago Center for Neurological Research, the director and treasurer for Central Avenue Synagogue and the incoming director for Children of Heroes. Blumenthal is running against incumbent Democrat Rep. Scott Drury in the Nov. 8 election.