Universities agree to pick up cost of employee retirement benefits

May 17, 2013

Glenn Poshard (L), Robert Easter (center)
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. IPR’S Amanda Vinicky reports.

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.

"We're willing to do whatever it takes because this issue is the single greatest issue threatening our people over the long haul." That's Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard. University of Illinois President Robert Easter says 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.