By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner
Rep. Will Guzzardi (D- Chicago), co-chair of the Illinois House Progressive Caucus, wants you to pay for the cost of his comparative literature degree from Brown University.
He recently tweeted, saying: “As someone still paying off student debt 10 years after I graduated college, it’s great to see @BernieSanders and @ewarren pushing bold plans to address this crisis. We’ll continue to fight for #TuitionFreeIL and student debt relief in Springfield.”
He linked to a CNN article about Bernie Sanders’ proposal to cancel the entire nation’s $1.6 trillion in undergrad and graduate student debt, no strings attached. As usual, Senator Sanders went back to the same funding well: he’d pay for all that debt through a tax on Wall Street transactions.
There’s a flood of literature already written about how absolutely misguided the ideas of total debt relief and free-college-for-all are. Here are just a few from economist James Pethokoukis:
- What happens when college is free? The results are underwhelming
- The anti-economics of ‘free’ college
- The 2 mistaken ideas at the heart of the push for ‘free’ college
- Bernie Sanders’ plan to cancel student debt shows bolder isn’t always better
- Shifting tuition to taxpayers may derail promising innovations
But perhaps what’s most concerning is what Guzzardi wants taxpayers to pay for right here in Illinois. Higher education, like in so many other states, is an administratively bloated mess. Even the Senate Democratic Caucus’ Investigative Report on Executive Compensation at Illinois Higher Education Institutions, written in 2015, said so:
While tuition at Illinois’ public institutions has skyrocketed, so has executive compensation. This report finds that tuition increases have coincided with a dramatic increase in administrative costs, including the size of administrative departments and compensation packages for executives.
The report continued:
This report focuses on the very top of the administrations of public universities and community colleges in Illinois. At the same time tuition and student debt are rising at a breakneck pace, the administrative systems of public institutions have expanded into sprawling behemoths, with some of those at the very top enjoying lavish perks, including expense accounts, club memberships, vehicles, and golden parachute severance payments. Despite the state’s transparency laws, many of these agreements are done in secret, denying the public the right to weigh in on the appropriateness of such generous packages, while students suffocate under non-dischargeable debt.
What the report says is true. Wirepoints confirmed that tuition at many public universities nearly doubled during the 2005-2015 period to fuel an administrative hiring spree along with lavish benefits.
Wirepoints also found that the number of higher ed administrators in Illinois grew by more than 26 percent between 2005 and 2015, even as the number of students enrolled shrank by three percent. That’s according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
At the same time, administrators granted themselves enormous paychecks. According to Illinois Board of Higher Education data, over half 2,465 university administrators received a base salary of $100,000 or more in 2015. At U of I, 95 percent of the university’s top 126 administrators made $100,000 or more in base salary.
The top administrators received up to $900,000 in annual compensation, as the list below shows. Those high six-figure salaries will translate into six-figure annual pension benefits worth several millions in retirement, depending on how long they work in Illinois’ higher ed system.
Guzzzardi and the progressive caucus have done nothing to fix any of the administrative excesses detailed in the senate report since it came out four years ago. Top higher ed bureaucrats are as well-paid today as they were before.
In fact, all lawmakers have done is push for even more money for higher education without demanding any responsibility for how it’s spent.
Reforms, not free college
Rep. Guzzardi is unfortunately yet another politician that can’t wait to spend other people’s money on a system that desperately needs reform.
And it’s especially galling that he wants the public to pay his college bills considering the amount of taxpayer-funded compensation he gets as an Illinois legislator. Guzzardi will get nearly $80,000 annually for part-time legislative work, some $10,000 for health care benefits, another $5,000 in per diems, and more than $1 million in pension benefits if he becomes a career legislator.
If the representative really cared about Illinois higher education and students, he’d read his own senate colleagues’ report on the excesses of Illinois’ higher ed administrations and work on eliminating them before asking for more taxpayer dollars.
Instead, Guzzardi’s plan, more free money for higher ed, would only make those excesses worse.
Read more about how lawmakers spend your money poorly:
- Another budget surprise: Pritzker hits up middle-class Illinoisans for more AFSCME raises, stipends and bennies
- Illinois pols sneak teacher-salary-spiking boost into 2020 budget
- Illinois’ Reckless $45 Billion Capital Spending Binge
- Why Warren Buffett is right to warn about Illinois: The state’s true retirement costs now total 50% of annual budget
Appendix 1. Senate Democratic Caucus Report