Universities Agree To Pay Pension Tab

May 16, 2013

Illinois universities and community colleges have signed on to a deal that would have them pick up the cost of their employees' retirement benefits.  It's part of lawmakers' ongoing efforts to reduce how much the state is spending on pensions. 

SIU President Glenn Poshard, left, and U of I President Robert Easter, center, testify at a House hearing Thursday on the pension cost shift.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois has cut its spending on universities for years ... and even more reductions are expected next year.

School administrators say it's forced them to hike tuition, and to leave positions unfilled.

And yet they've agreed to a plan that could collectively cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.  Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard explains why. 

POSHARD: "We're willing to do whatever it takes because this issue is the single greatest issue threatening our people over the long haul."

University of Illinois President Robert Easter say he's losing faculty because of uncertainty over what the state will do about workers' retirement plans.

No official action was taken. But at a public hearing,  Poshard and Easter signaled they're on board with a plan that requires schools to begin gradually picking up employees' retirement costs.

Negotiations are ongoing on similar efforts to transfer the tab for public school teachers' benefits from the state to local school districts.