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SIU Chancellor issues of Illinois' Pettit speaks on higher education

photo by Scott Kilbourne,
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine
Lawrence K. Pettit

Lawrence K. Pettit, chancellor of Southern Illinois University, thinks the higher education community will spend much of the spring session "cutting our losses." The universities' problem is financial. Gov. James R. Thompson allocated higher education less than a 3 percent increase in new money, and tax increases and bookkeeping measures that he included in his spending plan have drawn overwhelming legislative opposition.

Pettit sees opportunity too, the opportunity to force Illinois to face the issue of restructuring its spending priorities. In Pettit's view higher education has not been a priority in Illinois. He contrasts it with other states: "When he was governor of Tennessee Lamar Alexander said, 'I knew that Tennessee could not get anyplace unless our colleges and universities got there first.' " That has not happened in Illinois where Pettit says its increases have been about on par with growth in revenues: "Education has been treated just like everything else, like any other budget category. And the longer you go without giving education a priority, the harder it is to do because you get locked into other expenditure categories."

In Pettit's view society wins when states recognize that money spent on public universities and public schools is an investment in human capital. "I think there are examples from around the country where people have looked at what has happened in the new information-driven global economy and have concluded that human capital is the crisis." By not increasing its investment Illinois has not made that decision.

Pettit has spent some time in the political world too (see box

Lawrence K. Pettit

Position: Chancellor of Southern Illinois University since July 1, 1986, which is the chief executive officer of a system that includes 35,000 students and spends $357 million per year.

SIU campuses: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with its School of Medicine at Springfield. Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville with its School of Dental Medicine at Alton.

Higher education experience: Chancellor of the University System of South Texas from 1983 to 1986. Chief executive officer of the Montana University System from 1973-1979. Associate director of government relations for the American Council on Education from 1967 to 1969. Chairman of the Department of Political Science, Montana State University, 1969-1973.

Government background: Unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Montana in 1980. Statewide campaign manager for Montana Gov. Thomas L. Judge in 1972; ran the transition team and served as administrative assistant to Gov. Judge. Legislative assistant to two U.S. senators in the early 1960s.

Education: Ph.D. in Political Science, 1965, Univeristy of Wisconsin, Madison; M.A. in Political Science, 1962, Washington University in St. Louis; B.A. in History, 1959, University of Montana.

Professional: President of the National Association of System Heads. Editorial board member for the Education Record, published by the American Council on Education. Member of the Governor's Commission on Science and Technology.

Personal: Age 53 on May 2, 1990. Married; wife Libby, seven children.

22/May 1990/Illinois Issues

on page 22) and offers some insights on why Illinois differs from other states. First he says that the state's political culture is balkanized. "I can't find Illinois. I can't find people who regard themselves as Illinoisans." Instead he sees Chicagoans, Springfield natives and southern Illinoisans all with strong regional identities. The result is lack of state level chauvinism that he saw in both Texas and Montana. His example: "In Texas no matter where anybody lives, they want anything that carries the name of Texas to be so-called world class."

Pettit sees several reasons for the differences. Business leadership is concentrated in Chicago, not dispersed as in other states. "It probably includes people who have no prior connection to Illinois and who head organizations or corporations that are multinational or national and for whom Illinois is simply a convenient location but not a place of identity, again unlike Texas.'' Partisan politics plays a role, too. "It seems that in order to get anything on the policy agenda, it has to fit into a power equation," Pettit observes. He says that is characteristic of all political systems but seems to be "true in spades in Illinois."

The fragmented political culture spawns the lack of state identity, and partisan divisions make policy harder to establish. "These things together, I think, make it difficult to put together statewide coalitions of business, academia and government in order to articulate state aspirations and in order to put together a coherent state agenda," he says. Without an agenda, in turn, higher education is unsure of its place. "We really need to link our destiny better, I guess, to the destiny of the state and its people. We can't do that ourselves. We can't just arrogate ourselves a role. There has got to be a context for it, and it's that context that seems to be hard to establish in Illinois."

For this spring the fiscal crisis is higher education's short-term problem. Finding higher education's place in Illinois will require a long-term effort. Pettit sees a number of other issues facing higher education both in the short and long terms, including:

Accountability. Pettit says that public universities must do a better job explaining how they function and what they mean by productivity. He says there is no unit of production for higher education: "The real argument over productivity comes down to what's produced rather than the energy that goes into each unit of production."

Attacking societal problems. Pettit believes that universities should martial their resources to further causes like preschool education. "I think we need to work with a range of human service agencies, not just with the education people, but with all of them and come up with partnership arrangements where we provide training, research, maybe student interns or whatever, in settings where it could make a difference."

Complaints that universities should do more teaching and less research. Pettit calls the two processes "symbiotic." "At the university level the professor needs to be on the cutting edge of knowledge in his or her discipline, needs to give the students the most recent information and knowledge and that requires scholarly activity." Furthermore he insists that if universities do not conduct research, no one else will. "There's a whole range of human problems that can be understood and ameliorated only through research."

Demographics. The number of 18- to 22-year olds will

Committee to IBHE: annual reports recommended on quality, performance, costs

A committee named by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) to look at issues in the 1990s recommended few new directions for higher education in Illinois. The Committee on Scope, Structure and Productivity was formed after Gov. James R. Thompson asked the IBHE to address issues of accountability and productivity. In its March 6 report, the committee recommended few changes in scope and no changes in structure. Its recommendations on productivity included a series of new reports that are supposed to keep others abreast of what is going on at colleges and universities.

In the report's section on scope the committee recommended retention of existing policy objectives and some minor additions to IBHE's goal statements. Added to the goal of extending educational opportunities to all who are qualified would be the phrase "and assisting with the educational development of Illinois citizens of all ages to the limits of their capacities." The committee also recommended adding "assuring excellence by increasing the quality and cost effectiveness of all programs and services . . . " to the goal of increasing the quality of programs and services.

The committee recommended no change in the structure of four governing boards for the 12 public universities. Adding new boards like the separate governing board requested by Northern Illinois University would be too complicated, the committee found. On the other hand it decided that eliminating boards would weaken efforts to carry out program goals.

It was in the area of productivity that the committee made most of its recommendations for change. It observed that high attendance levels indicated broad public support for higher education, but it also noted public perceptions of problems with higher education, namely that colleges and universities should provide better education, should operate at lower costs, should deal better with pressing social issues and should do better attracting and retaining minority students.

First the committee recommended a campus-by-campus and system-by-system evaluation of ways to improve quality and reduce costs. Then the committee recommended a series of reports that included:

An annual report from each college and university for students, prospective students and parents about student success and satisfaction with the institution, including cost to attend.

An annual report from each college and university for its campus community and state officials on the institution's performance in meeting its goals, including efforts to improve quality and cost effectiveness. The report would include specific amounts of money reallocated from one program to another.

An annual report from the Board of Higher Education to the public on the condition and performance of higher education in meeting its goals. The report would include efforts to improve cost effectiveness.

The committee noted that reduced state funding for higher education in the 1980s had prompted public universities to hike tuitions. And the committee predicted further uncertainty on state funding in the 1990s, together with increasing public pressure not to raise tuitions. Those two factors will likely force cost-effectiveness upon public universities.

Michael D. Klemens

May 1990/Illinois Issues/23

decline through 1995 before turning upward again. ' 'If we want to keep intact the capacity that we have, we may be doing it with fewer students for a period of three or four years, and the consequences of that might mean that we'll look less cost-effective during that period."

Faculty shortages. National studies point to shortages of professors

Pettit sees increased need for cooperation among universities and colleges to spread costs of keeping up with technology

in math, computer science and liberal arts before the end of this decade. Particularly difficult will be recruitment of minorities and women, needed as role models at universities.

Making international linkages. Campus-by-campus exchange programs will become too expensive, forcing consideration of systemwide or statewide programs. "The state of Illinois should probably have some sort of plan for how the universities as a whole should further the state's international economic linkages or international linkages generally."

Minorities. "We simply have to be prepared to make a greater effort to clear the pathway for minority students to get to college and to complete college successfully."

Paying the costs of keeping up with the knowledge explosion. Pettit sees increased need for cooperation among universities and colleges to spread costs of keeping up with technology.

Public hostility to rising costs. Pettit lays the blame on prestige private universities that he says have jacked tuitions to "unconscionable levels." Public reaction against the increases is further aggravated by the fact that opinion leaders tend to send their children to private institutions and feel the increases directly. But government can do nothing about private institution costs, so the ensuing public backlash manifests itself in restrictions on public universities. "The problem lies with the high-priced private institutions, and it's the publics that suffer," Pettit says.

Many of those are longer range issues. For this spring the problems are more obvious. Says Pettit: "Maybe this session, because of the fiscal crisis, we can persuade people to begin to look at more fundamental issues, that is, the restructuring of the state's priorities. If at the same time we can come out of it without suffering retrenchments, we may in the long run be ahead."

24/May 1990/Illinois Issues

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