- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May 14, 2017

Belleville News-Democrat

Jobless giving up, so are rest of Illinois residents

Unemployment is an important measure of an economy’s health, but it is only part of the picture. Those who have given up on ever finding a job is a hidden, truer measure.

That number is improving across the nation. One in three of the jobless Americans have given up looking for work this year compared to two out of five last year.

Illinois? You guessed it.

Illinois has gone from one in three in 2015 to two of five in 2016 and was closing in this spring on half of the jobless giving up hope.

Express Employment Professionals CEO Bob Funk, who commissioned the poll, delivered what may be the understatement of the year: “Economic and political factors unique to Illinois may be at play here.”

Yup.

Those same political factors that can’t pass a budget after two years and think it is normal to have $12.6 billion in unpaid bills were also responsible for another delay tactic in the budget standoff between Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman and others were appointed to work with Rauner on identifying areas of compromise, rather than the real players being at the table. Nothing happens in Illinois until King Mike says it does, which now appears to be after the 2018 gubernatorial election.

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May 15, 2017

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Lousy credit report

Because the University of Illinois and the other state universities need state appropriations to fully fund their operations, some of those schools are seeing their credit ratings sink to junk-bond status.

It’s like the boy who joined his friends skipping school.

He knew he was in with the wrong crowd and would get caught.

But what he didn’t know: How bad the punishment was going to hurt.

If only the University of Illinois was a fringe member in a gang of scoundrels, it could plead for leniency from the principal and set a new path.

But the UI cannot separate itself from the state of Illinois. Therefore, it winces every time a large credit rating agency lashes the state with ever-lower bond rating.

Last month, Standard & Poor’s lowered the UI’s credit rating one level to A (mid-level investment grade) because the university cannot be more than three rating levels above the state’s BBB (low-end investment grade).

Further, last month another credit rating agency, Moody’s, placed the UI and five other Illinois public universities on review for credit downgrades.

Does it hurt less if you know it’s coming?

Maybe not to the state’s universities, but it’s information investors in government bonds want to know. How likely are they to receive timely payments?

The answer is, not sure. Maybe investors will get their money, maybe they’ll lose some.

The state’s ever-grimmer outlook stems from its political standoff in Springfield. If no action is taken this month, Illinois will have two straight fiscal years without any spending plan or any strategy to balance its books and to revive the state’s economy.

In short, Illinois is becoming a bad risk.

And when it comes to lending money, bad risks have to pay high market interest rates - including universities, which have little influence over how the Legislature and the governor conduct business.

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May 12, 2017

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

Take ‘interim’ out of Colwell’s title at SIUC

Southern Illinois University Carbondale is facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis.

The school is in the eye of the perfect storm: A state budget impasse the likes of which the country hasn’t seen in 80 years, competition from two-year colleges and tech schools, an uncertain future at the federal level under the leadership of a horribly inexperienced Secretary of Education. Not to mention a fluctuating reputation as party hotspot turned killjoy.

And lest we forget the revolving door of chancellors, some beloved and some beguiled, but none sticking around long enough to become truly invested in the future of SIU, and by extension, the city of Carbondale and the Southern Illinois region.

It’s a complicated, layered situation that does not have an easy answer, but we believe the best candidate for chancellor is right under our noses.

Over the past month, the university has hosted a series of interviews and open forums with the four candidates - Jeff Elwell, George Hynd, Carl Pinkert and current SIU Carbondale interim chancellor Brad Colwell.

And after attending the forums, we can tell you what our least favorite answer to SIU Carbondale’s woes: Optimism.

The outside candidate with the highest potential, an affable and dynamic candidate, Elwell, took a job elsewhere, taking himself out of the running for chancellor for the Carbondale campus.

So that brings us to Colwell, who has been the interim chancellor for SIU Carbondale since September 2015.

Colwell, a native of nearby Bluford, understands Carbondale, having essentially done a two-year practice run in the job he seeks. Colwell is thoughtful, and has already begun leading the charge for change on the Carbondale campus. When asked about the budget crisis, where other candidates offered polished peanuts, Colwell acknowledged there was no simple solution, and painted a detailed picture of what the future would look like for the university.

He admitted the university can’t be all things to all people, and pointed out that the university is no longer state supported (it’s state assisted, at best, he said).

It may sound grim, but Colwell is realistic. He understands things can’t just be put back to the way they were in what are considered SIU’s glory days.

Colwell also has the best background, which includes a bachelor’s degree in political science from Anderson University in Indiana and a master’s degree in educational administration, a juris doctor degree and a doctoral degree in educational administration, all from the University of Illinois.

Bottom line, it’s time for stability at SIU Carbondale. The revolving door of chancellors has to stop, so why not now?

As a Board of Trustees, it may feel like an outside candidate is the best fix. But, that’s not always the case. In this particular case, the in-house candidate is best.

“With an interim in front of my name, there were certain things I could not do,” Colwell said.

Take the interim tag off his name - Colwell is the person to take SIU Carbondale into the future.

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