Watchdog co-founder offers education letter as a lesson in 'fake news'
To paraphrase Mark Twain: The death of Illinois' universities was greatly exaggerated.
Before the Legislature finally passed a state budget recently, there were widespread rumors of a Higher Learning Commission (HLC) letter warning that the state's universities would lose their accreditation if they weren't funded, according to Jim Kraft, co-founder of the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW).
"Everyone referred to this letter as proof the HLC said accreditation would be lost," Kraft posted on the ECW's website, Illinois Leaks. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
In fact, the letter was a cautionary statement to Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislators, Kraft said. HLC President Barbara Gellman-Danley expressed the commission's concerns and reviewed the impact that a lack of funding has had on the universities and students over the last two and a half years, including increased tuition and fees, declining enrollment and loss of grant and donation income. It urged lawmakers to fund higher education.
"Institutions exhibiting these problems, regardless of cause, are still subject to HLC standards that require the availability of appropriate financial, physical, and human resources," the letter said. "When institutions no longer meet, or are at risk of not meeting these standards, HLC is obligated to implement its system of sanctions and public information to alert the public about the impact on educational quality; some institutions may ultimately face withdrawal of accreditation."