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The "Crisis of Confidence" series is a multi-year effort by the Tri States Public Radio to document the impact the two-year state budget impasse had on Western Illinois University and the ongoing recovery efforts at WIU. State support for public higher education institutions has been steadily declining in Illinois for more than a decade. But the issue was compounded, during the state's historic two-year budget impasse during Fiscal Years '16 and '17 which left public colleges and universities with little state financial support. At Western Illinois University, that drastic cut in state appropriations resulted in significant budget cuts, employee furloughs, and layoffs.

Praise but No Raise (For Now) for WIU President

Rich Egger
WIU President Jack Thomas speaking during the June 9 BoT meeting.

Members of the Western Illinois University Board of Trustees said President Jack Thomas has done "an admirable job" of steering the university through difficult times brought on by the unprecedented state budget impasse. 

They also said he is “compensated significantly below his peers in the state.” So they’ve talked about giving him a raise, though Dr. Thomas has refused to accept one at this time.

However, the BoT unanimously passed a resolution during its most recent meeting to eventually boost his pay:

“In the event that a budget is passed and increases are available for our employees, Western Illinois University will provide a salary increase to Dr. Thomas (that) reflects at least the average total compensation of Presidents of comparable Illinois public institutions for higher education.”

The resolution does not specify which public universities are considered comparable.  Tri States Public Radio sought clarification from Darcie Shinberger, Assistant Vice President for Advancement & Public Services. Her email response:

“I've checked with (BoT) Chair (Cathy) Early and Vice Chair (Yvonne) Savala about your question about comparable institutions. The Board will define and discuss what constitutes comparable salaries if and when Western Illinois University receives appropriate state funding and is in a position to consider salary increases.”

Western’s website has a list of what are considered to be peer institutions -- a list approved by the BoT two years ago.

Thomas’ current salary is $270,528. However, he’s been paid less than that the past couple fiscal years due to furlough days. 

The Illinois Board of Higher Education website shows how his pay compares to the leaders of other public universities in the state, though its latest figures are for Fiscal Year 2016.  And the figure for Thomas reflects his pay after taking furlough days.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.