City Colleges of Chicago, which has seen steady declines in student enrollment, raised tuition this year to shore up finances.
But the community college network is continuing to invest heavily in its bureaucracy, hiring more non-classroom administrators and giving others raises, a Better Government Association analysis found.
Among those to see a large boost in pay this year: Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, who was given a one-time $35,000 salary bonus by the City Colleges board of trustees without a formal evaluation or a public discussion or vote. The bonus was for what her press office described as “meritorious performance.”
That’s on top of her $250,000 salary and other perks.
Her boss, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is paid roughly $216,000 a year.
Hyman was hired into the job in 2010 under then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, even though Hyman had no experience in higher education. She was kept in the job by Emanuel.
Hyman wouldn’t comment. But the BGA found, from interviews and City Colleges financial records, that under her leadership:
- The number of district office employees rose by 90 over the past four years – a 25 percent increase. Meanwhile, the number of full- and part-time faculty decreased by 3 percent, from 1,637 to 1,584.
- Administrators making six figures rose from 79 in 2011 to 114 in 2015. But the number of faculty with salaries of $100,000 or more dropped from 35 to 23. (More than 100 instructors, however, will see total pay hit six figures when taking into account salary, and stipends for extra work, officials said.)
- Spending on administrative staff increased from $40 million in 2010 to $47.5 million in 2015, according to data from City Colleges. In the new budget, that spending is projected at $53 million.
- During the same period, the amount spent on the seven City Colleges campuses – covering classroom instruction and support services such as tutoring and advising, among other things – rose by 4.5 percent, from $219 million to $229 million, according to City Colleges.
- Since 2011, enrollment has decreased by 16 percent – from 119,000 students to about 100,000. Meantime, City Colleges raised tuition this year by $200 to $250 per class to bring in an additional $12 million.
City Colleges has a $700 million budget. About $400 million or 60 percent of the budget comes from the local, state or federal government. The rest comes from tuition, fees and bonds to pay for capital projects.
The agency touts achievements such as higher graduation rates (from 7 percent in 2011 to 14 percent in 2014) and insisted hiring and salary decisions are intended to continue improvements in student learning and performance.
The City Colleges’ main initiative, called “Reinvention,” involves consolidating programs onto particular campuses and helping students get on and stay on the path to degree or certificate completion.
“Since City Colleges launched the Reinvention in 2010, we have made strategic investments at both the district office and college level to improve student outcomes,” according to an e-mailed statement from City Colleges.
The $5 million department leading Reinvention called the Office of Strategy and Institutional Intelligence is one of the drivers in the increase in bureaucracy spending. Rasmus Lynnerup, formerly of the global management consulting company McKinsey & Company, leads the department and makes $174,000.
Lynnerup refused to comment, as did City Colleges board members, who are appointed by the mayor.
The union representing adjunct faculty members, who are in the midst of contract negotiations, wants to see more investment in the classroom, rather than administration.
“’Reinvention’ is supposed to be putting money into the classroom,” said Bill Silver, an organizer with the Illinois Education Association, which represents the part-time instructors. “Why is it going to administrators pockets?”
Ald. Will Burns, chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee, said there’s a need “for competitive salaries for leaders of government agencies,” but they also need to be mindful that these are “difficult economic times.”
This column – a regular feature called The Public Eye, appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times – was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Sarah Karp, who can be reached at (312) 525-3483 or firstname.lastname@example.org.