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:

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:

Appendix 1. Senate Democratic Caucus Report

[3d-flip-book mode=”fullscreen” urlparam=”fb3d-page” pdf=””]

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1 year ago

someone who borrows large amounts of money to study comparative literature should be beaten with a hose, not given a bailout

Platinum Goose
1 year ago

I think there should be a mechanism for discharging college debt. It shouldn’t be a simple wipe the slate clean type of deal though. Maybe add a new chapter to the bankruptcy code for school debt. Easier payment terms but long term payback. Perhaps 1 to 3 percent of taxable income payable over 15 – 30 years. This way if the debtor does finally get a well paying job he’ll actually be making some sizable payments. If he doesn’t ever get a well paying job then he’s not saddled with an onerous payment but is still paying back some of… Read more »

1 year ago

while Uof I is busy taking out insurance deals to insure against a drop in full freight $$Chinese students$$ cash cow,,,,meanwhile across the border in Indiana Mitch Dainials is doing a bang-up job cutting costs and freezing tuition for 7 years straight. I believe it cost less for Illinoisans to go to Purdue with out of state tuition than it does U of I-Champlain–a disgrace. similar with other neighboring state universities. and no Illinois pol is embarrassed in the least by this hypocrisy

1 year ago

I got zero help from family and borrowed six figures for college and a graduate degree and that was 16 years ago I finished school. I can pay it back but I still owe less than 1/3rd. I shudder to think what it costs today. The sensible solution isn’t to forgive everyone’s student loans, but rather, allow people to discharge it in bankruptcy. If you can afford something, then pay it back. But if after 7 years you’re still penniless and owe more than you borroweed, then file bankruptcy. This is too much for the average progressive Voter who expects… Read more »

1 year ago

Why do college bound kids get money only? Take two 18 year olds… Student A is college bound, student B wants to open a weddding planning and florist shop. Student A gets handed 160K $ free to go be a social worker then goes to work at Starbucks. Student B got nothing. Why didn’t student B get 160K in cash to buy a flower van, shop rental, flower supplier, marketing, tools, etc.? Seems to me student B generates more economic activity. College ain’t all its cracked up to be and if you give it away for free people don’t care… Read more »

Hank Scorpio
1 year ago

This would be like giving free health care to chain smokers, alcoholics, drug addicts and morbid gluten’s while everyone else pays for their own health care. If you took out a $100k loan because you wanted to go away to a fancy university to have that college experience or get a degree in Gender Studies, you deserve to be homeless.

1 year ago

If we ever get around to cancelling the student debt of the Will Guzzardi’s of the world for their BA degrees in Comparative Literature (yup), we should only reimburse the equivalent of their local public university tuition. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize the private school dreams of the privileged class.

Don’t forget, Guzzardi is also the guy whose family abused NY’s rent control back in the day:

1 year ago
Reply to  nixit

Great article on Guzzardi. Everyone should read this. And he wants rent control? What a total phony.

Andrew Szakmary
1 year ago

I agree with your condemnation of proposals to cancel student debt, but I don’t see how it would significantly help universities. My main issue is that cancelling debt is patently unfair to the tens of millions of us who have already paid off our debt. In my case, adjusted for inflation, I had about $90,000 in student loans upon getting my MBA 37 years ago, and it took me 20 years to pay it back, but at great personal sacrifice I did it. So now, after paying off my own loans, as a taxpayer I am supposed to pay off… Read more »

1 year ago

Agree completely. And so many other examples of how unfair it would be. Some kids work jobs during school to avoid debt. Some select lesser schools with lower tuition to avoid debt. Some may have skipped college entirely because of the bills. Now, they should help pay for those who chose otherwise and ran up big debts?

1 year ago

You took out the equivalent of $244,000 today in student loans to get a MBA? I shudder to think what the interest rates were back then.

1 year ago

Congrats on paying off your loans all by yourself. That’s a big accomplishment and a great thing to be proud of. Having said that, just because you successfully managed to pay off your student loans and debt doesn’t mean everyone else can. You may be the exception more than the rule. With the soaring costs of buying a home and owning a vehicle (pretty much everything) combined with the lagging increase in income. The cards are even more stacked against them. Just because you went through it and paid off your loans doesn’t make it a good argument to not… Read more »

Student of Shane-o-nomics
1 year ago
Reply to  Shane M

Maybe it’s because: a) He decided to forsake other things so that he could pay off his loans quickly, so instead of being able to save more debt-free, he’s now on the hook for the debts of others who made different economic choices; b) He decided to forego further education or chose a school that had lower tuition based on what kind of debt he was comfortable with. c) As Ted said, he doesn’t want another government subsidy propping up the cost of higher education, and particularly not if the cost will be borne by taxpayers at large, regardless of… Read more »

Shane M
1 year ago

Thanks for your argument. Using extreme situations and examples for all you talking points really shows how you missed the entire point. The point is the cost of college now a days is ridiculously expensive compared to what it was 10, 20, 30 years ago and it preys on people who, more likely than not, need this education/degree in life. The rising costs have gotten out of hand and the rising wages and salaries as a result of obtaining degree have not matched it at all. Either the universities need a reform on how much they charge for tuition or… Read more »

Student of Shane-o-nomics
1 year ago
Reply to  Shane M

An undergrad degree at Northern Illinois costs the same as one at Harvard? At Stanford? At Northwestern? At Marquette? At University of Illinois? At Northern, with 2 years at Oakton? Judging by your offhand property tax remark, you have no understanding of how property taxes work, particularly in Illinois, and why states like Indiana and California instituted reforms to curtail the burdens of them. The problem with this scheme as most other federal interventions into higher education is that it provides only incentive for college education to increase its cost, not its value. So, we can continue on this… Read more »

1 year ago
Reply to  Shane M

Shane, you are asking us (the taxpayers) to pay for your lifestyle. In return, will you buy us all new corvettes?