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Controversy Brewing At City Colleges

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A controversy is brewing at Chicago's City Colleges after a multi-million dollar spending spree, by their new chancellor, on new administrative hires and consultants and not on students, supplies or scholarships.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine finds that last years hiring records during the campaign to 'Reinvent the City College' system to produce graduates for a new economy show dozens of new hires, many six figure salaries, and millions in consultants' contracts.

There are a 120,000 students attending the seven city colleges; earning associates' degrees as well as certificates in various specialties.

How do students feel about those new administrators and consultants?

City college student Jose Estrada thinks, "They should spend that money on scholarships. things we as students need."

City college student Sean Lamina said, "we got other stuff that could help us, like school stuff, computers breaking down all the time. thats not good.

John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute said, "They're spending an awful lot of money on consultants, on branding and communications, reasonable things to do, but it seems to me you gotta fix the product first."

A product which leads to degrees or certificates for just 7 percent of students who enroll.

"I know we can be doing much better," says Chancellor Cheryl Hyman who spoke with CBS 2's Kristyn Hartman back in January. The closest we got when we asked to talk about the new hires, was what we believe was her car illegally parked outside the the loop headquarters.

And a driver who scurried out to move it after they saw us taking pictures.

We also got a written statement about "investments to better serve our students....(which) pale in comparison to the tens of millions in savings."

Among those new investments:

The Chancellor's chief of Staff, ($120,000) and 2 Vice Chancellors for Instutional Intelligence ($135,000) and business enterprise. ($150,000)

"I think its fine they're working on these things, they want to reinvent administration but i think a little more energy oughtta be going to the classroom," Tillman added.

We had lots of questions about both the new positions and some of the people who filled them. But Chancellor Hyman's $87,000 a year spokesman, another new hire, told us, there's no story here.

In a statement Monday, the City Colleges said they were "investing in the reform of a half-billion dollar institution which serves 120,000 students," and as part of a plan to reinvent the City Colleges, a handful of senior-level positions and consultants have been added "as investments."

The City Colleges also released a list of changes that reduced or controlled spending, including centralizing back-office functioning, cutting travel by 40 percent, eliminating most company credit card use, and beginning a zero-based budgeting policy so that spending can be examined line-by-line.

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