Politics & Policy

This College’s Strategy: Get the Money, Figure out How to Spend It

Despite high tuition and loan default, this college deliberately wastes taxpayer dollars.

The president of the College of DuPage (COD) in Glen Ellyn, Ill., is trying to secure $20 million in state tax money for — well, it doesn’t matter really, as long as it’s “politically attractive.”

An email from the community college’s president, Robert Breuder, to the Board of Trustees outlines his plan for acquiring the money from the Illinois governor’s office. Adam Andrzejewski, the founder of OpenTheBooks.com and watchdog organization For The Good of Illinois, worked to expose the school for its political strategy of lavish spending, excessive building expansion, inflated presidential compensation, and tuition spikes. He describes the results in an article in Forbes.

Breuder earns more than $450,000 each year including base salary, 56 paid off-days, a paid cell phone, deferred compensation, retirement annuity, and allowances. He was also reimbursed tens of thousands in fees for a shooting club.

In his email, Breuder suggested building a $50 million Teaching and Learning Center in order to coax the $20 million from the state. Several board members wanted to analyze the need for the facility. “I have no problem with that; however, not being able to say how we would use the state’s money (perhaps no real need) could lessen our chances to break the money loose at this time,” he wrote.

To seal the deal, Breuder planned to pull a few more political strings. When introducing Illinois governor Pat Quinn at commencement, he would thank him for his commitment “in front of 3,500 people. There are many voters in our District. Please keep November 4 in mind.”

Breuder thought a learning-centered building would boost chances of receiving the money because it is “politically attractive; more so than let’s say a student center, PE facility, etc.”

The school hasn’t always been so prudent.

COD has purchased nearly $200,000 worth of wine and wine accessories since 2011 for the school’s pricey French restaurant, not including the cost of building the wine cellar. The French restaurant lost $560,000 in its first year of operation (2012).

The school also justified $600 million in construction spending by citing a small enrollment spike. The executive vice president, Joseph Collins, said the school needed a $50 million building because enrollment had grown 5 percent in five years. Documents on the college’s website indicate that enrollment has actually decreased by almost 6,000 since 2000, according to OpenTheBooks.com employee Laura Reigle.

COD already currently has $180 million in assets. Out of 39 colleges and universities in Illinois, COD had the largest tuition increases, and 20 percent of student loans defaulted within students’ first three years after graduation. COD covers expenses with local property taxes and student tuition. Area homeowners were subjected to a 59 percent tax hikes during a period when property value declined.

This college’s practices raise questions about how colleges and universities spend taxpayer dollars and high tuition. College presidents have long been criticized for high compensation. A 2003 article in the New York Times described the competition among schools to lure more students by offering superfluous and extravagant perks. The University of Houston, the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh, Washington State University, Pennsylvania State University, and other schools indulged in excesses such as indoor batting cages, a Jacuzzi, golf simulators, and facilities for massages, manicures, and pedicures.

A Boston Globe report recently accused former Westfield State president Evan S. Dobelle of extravagant spending, including personal trips and electronic equipment and having a portrait made of himself. The report also found that he often filed false reports to hide his habits.

— Celina Durgin is a Franklin Center intern at National Review Online.

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