Editorial: Unnecessary overselling of University contributions

The Illinois state budget standoff has gone on long enough. Speaker Michael Madigan and Governor Bruce Rauner’sJT game of chicken has careened out of control, affecting University faculty members’ insurance coverage, students’ Monetary Award Program grants and the credit ratings of several Illinois public colleges.

In response to threats to cut the funding of Illinois public education, the University has cut their spending by $24 millionJT, students have protested at the capitol building in Springfield and now the University has commissioned a study claiming that it annually contributes $13.9 billion to Illinois’ economy.

While the University has a reason to prove its worth in light of the budget standoff, the true merits of the study remain questionable at best.

Almost $9.5 billion of the $13.9 billion the University claims to contribute to the economy come from “alumni contributions” — or the income University graduates who now work in Illinois have contributed to the state.

It seems as though every day, we students are bombarded with study after study detailing how rarely students actually wind up in a field that uses the degree that they earned. While college degrees are required for many careers, it is illogical for the University to take credit for their alumni’s income as the effort far more likely lies with the alumni themselves.

In essence, correlation does not equal causation.

The University shouldn’t cast doubt upon the value of the education it provides by stretching the truth and trying to oversell their worth out of potential anxiety.

Studies of this size are usually rather expensive, and it should be considered whether the cost of this study was a necessary expenditure — especially since the University’s budget is shrouded in such uncertainty.

The University is impressive enough, and didn’t have to splash money on a study that likely won’t change Illinois legislators’ minds, oversells the University’s strengths and didn’t benefit an Illinois company, as the study was completed by a company in Idaho.

Putting pressure on the Illinois government is a valid tactic that the University should be doing, but an overstated survey reveals how desperate the University is and undermines its true worth.