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February 8, 2007


SPRINGFIELD – James L. Kaplan, who has been a leader in state education policy-making for twenty years, has announced that he will step down as Chairman of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE).

Kaplan has served on the IBHE since 1999 when he was appointed to the Board by former Governor George Ryan. He was named Chairman by Governor Rod Blagojevich in April 2003. He has led the Board and the higher education system through one of the most challenging fiscal periods in the state’s history during which he promoted affordability, championed expanded access for students with disabilities, demanded increased scrutiny of the quality of academic programs, and fostered efficiency in higher education operations.

Kaplan began his tenure as IBHE Chairman as the Illinois economy was suffering through a severe recession that strained state tax revenues for governmental operations. He initiated a cost-saving plan under which public universities curbed administrative expenses by $100 million and reallocated the savings to high-priority academic endeavors. Kaplan also worked to sustain funding for financial assistance programs for low-income students and even achieve modest increases while most state agencies were experiencing budget reductions.

In June 2006 the Illinois Community College Trustees Association honored the Chairman with its 2006 Meritorious Service Award for his efforts to increase funding for higher education and to advance the cause of students during difficult budget times. 

Kaplan has a long history of working on behalf of students with disabilities, dating back to 1992 when Governor Jim Edgar appointed him to the Illinois State Advisory Council on the Education of Children with Disabilities. He represented Illinois at the Leadership Conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs in 1995 and 1996. Through his leadership, the Board of Higher Education established an Advisory Committee on Disabilities to promote greater access to college for students with disabilities. And he insisted that the Board and institutions improve data collection to better monitor progress in opening the doors of college opportunity for disabled students. In September 2006, Kaplan was honored by Southern Illinois University-Carbondale with a plaque recognizing his leadership in increasing educational opportunity for students with disabilities.

Chairman Kaplan also promoted increased access to college and the importance of diversifying campuses through his service on the Board’s Committee on Access and Diversity and its committee to establish the University Center of Lake County.

He has played a major role in revamping policies for overseeing state grant programs. His leadership led to legislation to allocate 10 percent of appropriations for the Health Services Education Grant Act program to high-need health professions. And his insistence on seeing measurable results in Higher Education Cooperation Act grants produced new programs this year aimed at fostering successful baccalaureate degree completion for community college students. Kaplan has also advanced initiatives and state funding to improve graduation rates at Illinois public universities.

During his tenure on the Board and as Chairman, Kaplan has been a steadfast advocate for efficiency in educational operations and for quality of academic programs. He established the Board’s Committee on Priorities, Productivity, and Accountability, which examined institutional missions and recommended various measures to streamline state oversight of university operations. He also created the Board’s Utilities Committee and pressed institutions to coalesce to promote energy conservation measures on their campuses. The Chairman also has been stalwart in his scrutiny of new academic programs, questioning in particular the quality assurances in the fast-growing proprietary sector and online programs.

Kaplan is a graduate of the University of Arizona and the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law. In 2004, he was named to the law school’s Board of Overseers. He is managing partner at Kaplan & Sorosky, a law firm in Chicago. He serves as a judge in the state Court of Claims.


Don Sevener



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