"Charleston Kickback" put spotlight on EIU
State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) made a trade.
He'd cast the decisive vote and give the Chicago Democrats what they wanted-- large individual and business income tax hikes and a $700 million bailout for Chicago's bankrupt public schools-- if they would just agree to send a few more state dollars to his district.
And so it was.
Page 508 of House Speaker Michael Madigan's 638-page budget lays out the $4,757,100 that Eastern Illinois University (EIU) in Charleston will receive "for remodeling of the HVAC in the Life Science Building and Coleman Hall."
EIU will also get $59,282 "for upgrading the electrical distribution system" and and $10,790 "for renovating and expanding the (EIU) Fine Arts Center."
All told, Righter received a little less than $5 million for EIU. And his vote will result in $5 billion more in tax dollars sent to Springfield from voters in his district and across the rest of Illinois.
$515 million in state taxpayer funding, enrollment down 40 percent
EIU's central role in the state's budget drama is raising questions about not just its own finances, but the importance of its existence, period.
After all, the school's local clout and relentless lobbying led Sen. Righter to side with EIU's 1,224 employees over the other 148,000 or so voters in his district.
Because of his vote, individuals in Righter's district will pay at least $55 million more in state income taxes, according to an analysis released Friday by Local Government Information Services (LGIS), which publishes the East Central Reporter. Local businesses will also pay millions more.
So is EIU really worth it?
LGIS analyzed state funding to EIU over the past decade. From 2006 to 2016, state taxpayers have sent $502 million in subsidies to EIU, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE).
But more the state has spent, the fewer students the school has attracted.
Since 2006, EIU's enrollment has fallen 40 percent.
Its state funding over the same period-- measured per student-- has risen 40 percent.
In 2006, EIU had 12,349 students and received $3,855 in state subsidies per student.
By 2015, it had just 8,520 students and was receiving $5,036 per student from state taxpayers.
Last school year, EIU enrollment fell again-- to 7,415.
Total state funding next year, with the newly approved budget, will be about $41 million, or more than $5,500 per student. That's assuming EIU enrollment doesn't decline again-- School President David Glassman said last month that another decline is likely.
$53,802 per graduate
But most of this increase in funding hasn't bought school air conditioning units. It has gone to salaries for school faculty, who are among the highest-paid workers in East Central Illinois.
The median household income in Coles County was $36,457 according to the last U.S. Census.
IBHE's 2015 salary survey for EIU found 153 school employees (13 percent) earning more than $100,000, 358 (30 percent) earning more than $70,000 and 546 (45 percent) earning more than $50,000, before benefits and their taxpayer-funded pension payments.
Of 160 EIU professors analyzed by data analytics firm Graphiq, their average effective salary was $119,092.
Meanwhile, of the 2,992 students who entered EIU as Freshmen in 2009, 957 managed to graduate in 2013, a graduation rate of 32 percent, according to the U.S. Dept. of Education.
State taxpayers spent $194.2 million on those EIU students during the same span, or $53,802 per graduate.
Tuition up 400 percent
In 1982, some thirty-five years ago, tuition at EIU was $1,123 per year, or $2,848 in inflation-adjusted, 2017 dollars.
Last year it more than four times that-- $11,730 in-state.
In Terre Haute, 44 miles east, Indiana State charges $8,746.
Indiana State hit an all-time enrollment high last year with 13,584 students
It wasn't always this way.
EIU's 1995 Centennial handbook described how "only at Eastern Illinois was it possible to bring a cow to school, milk it daily, sell the milk and earn enough money from the sale to pay tuition and expenses-- and then graduate with high honors."
More money, to teach fewer students
Eastern Illinois University has received more than $500 million in state subsidies since 2006. But the school keeps shrinking.
|Year||Enrollment||State Subsidy||Per Student|
Source: Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), U.S. Dept of Education.