Forbes: The Real College Financial Crisis 4_real_college_financial_crisis

July 29, 2014 11:00 AM



by Adam Andrzejewski

Wine Cellars, Shooting Clubs, a corrupted $20 Million State Grant, a College President’s $500,000 Comp Package, $600 Million in Construction Projects, & much more…

Nearly every day, the news headlines are screaming about the increasingly unattainable costs of tuition and the insurmountable price tag of attaining a college degree. Student debts are at crushing levels which impacts social mobility and drives a deeper divide between the haves and have not’s.

Do you want to know why college costs and debts are so oppressive? Colleges have become fiefdoms unto themselves- even at the local community college level. An excellent case-in-point is within my own locale at the College of DuPage (COD).

Here’s what we’ve exposed at COD during the last 45 days:

Stopped a political strategy to procure a $20 million state grant

Requesting COD President Robert Breuder’s emails during the two week period prior to the governor’s visit to campus for commencement, we exposed a political strategy to “shake loose” a $20 million state construction grant by bringing support to incumbent Governor Pat Quinn. Citing our exposure, the major Chicago dailies editorialized and the scandal ran on the front page. The governor said the president’s strategy was “extremely alarming” and employed “misrepresentation.” Quinn then suspended “all future capital dollars.”

COD is cash rich with $180 million in the bank. They didn’t need the extra $20 million, but they wanted it- so badly- they risked their integrity. Read Dr. Breuder’s email strategy here.

Wine, Upscale French Restaurants, and the Shooting Club

Searching COD’s checkbook, we found that the school paid or reimbursed the president for annual membership dues and fees of at least $27,931 at the Max McGraw private shooting club in Dundee, IL (2009-2-2013). COD has purchased over $192,000 of wine and wine accessories in just the past three years- and this doesn’t include the cost of building their wine cellar. The wine cellar is a part of the school’s upscale French restaurant- which lost $560,000 in its first year of operation (2012). Losses for 2013 are still unclear.

While the working class students are burdened by limited financial means, COD won a 2013 Wine Spectator award after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Comp of COD President Ranked in TOP 100 College/University Presidents

The total compensation of Robert Breuder is $469,345. Here’s a quick breakdown: base salary of $292,000 plus 56 paid personal, vacation, “rest and respite,” and holidays. Breuder receives paid cell phone, and mostly paid health and life insurance, plus lucrative extra perks: $72,000 in deferred comp ($360,000/ since 2009); $24,900 into a retirement annuity ($124,500/ since 2009); $8,400 of car allowance ($42,000/ since 2009); $8,400 of “personal development” allowance ($42,000/ since 2009). Breuder personally pays nothing into the state university retirement pension. COD pays his contribution amounting to approximately $24,000 annually.

What part of a community college comes with a $500,000/ Top 100 comp package for its president?

$600 Million in construction since 2009, but enrollment up just 5% in 5 years

COD has driven a $600 million construction spending bus through a small recent enrollment spike. Two weeks ago, COD Executive Vice President Joseph Collins ($227,064 salary, source defended the need for an additional $50 million building by citing 5% enrollment growth over five years, “Enrollment growth justifies expansion, Daily Herald.” employee Laura Reigle fact checked Collins by using documents posted on the college’s own website and learned that official enrollment has decreased by nearly 6,000 students since 2000. In fact, current enrollment is still 1,200 students less than in 1995.

Statistics are often used to bolster weak arguments. We debunked them.

Property Tax Hikes and Student Tuition Spikes

The College is funded by local property taxes and student tuition. In the June board meeting, COD Chief Financial Officer Thomas Glaser ($220,019 salary, source admitted that the school hiked the property tax rate by 59% to ensure that taxes continued to increase even though property values declined sharply. Out of 39 colleges and universities in Illinois, COD tuition spikes outpaced all of them. COD students suffered real pain as 20% of loans defaulted within the first three years after graduation.

What’s the Matter with College of DuPage?  Plenty. Illinois is a national leader in home foreclosures, so taxpayers are “spent.” The students are “spent” with a national average $29,000 student debt at graduation. But true to the old Wall Street maxim, “excess begets excess” and the college executives keep on spending.

It’s time that students, taxpayers and the COD trustees stopped them.

Disclosure:  Adam Andrzejewski is the founder of and IL watchdog organization, For The Good of Illinois





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