Metro-East News

SIUE faculty: Campus gets 30 percent of state funds, SIUC 70 percent

Faculty members at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville question a proposed loan from SIUE to its sister campus when Southern Illinois University Carbondale gets twice as much in state funding.

Currently, state appropriations are divided unequally between the campuses, with 70 percent going to Carbondale and 30 percent to Edwardsville, according to SIUE Faculty Senate President Jeffrey Sabby.

“We have made all the hard choices,” Sabby said. In comparison, Carbondale has not reduced its spending or programs as it faces a continuing decline in enrollment, he said.

The SIUE Faculty Senate unanimously passed two resolutions recently. The first requests that the SIU Board of Trustees place certain limitations on the proposed loan from SIUE’s emergency reserve to SIUC, which is in dire financial shape due to long stretches without state funding and declining enrollment.

The second resolution asks the trustees to consider changing the way the state’s funding to the university system is split between the universities.

SIU President Randy Dunn contends the annual split for state appropriations is 60 percent for SIUC with the remaining 40 percent to SIUE. However, he also said some of the overall sub-budgets between the institutions may be split 70/30.

SIUC may run out of money within a couple of months and has “blown through” $80 million of its own reserves and reserves of the Springfield medical school, Dunn said. SIU administrators have proposed lending money to Carbondale from SIUE’s unrestricted reserve fund to help cope with the shortfall.

SIUC needs to cut about $30 million from its budget, Dunn has said. SIUE has $70 million in unrestricted reserves, and it can loan that money to SIUC on a short-term basis.

SIUE faculty have been less than enthusiastic about the plan, because the Edwardsville campus has gone through several years of budget cuts and paring down costs to weather the state budget stalemate, and the faculty have gone without raises for four years.

The internal, no-interest loan was to be considered at the April meeting of the board of trustees, but was delayed on a procedural vote. The board has tentatively set a special meeting regarding the issue for the afternoon of May 10 at the SIUE campus.

Loan restrictions

Sabby said the SIUE faculty are sympathetic to their sister campus and want to help, within limits.

“We are a system as a whole, and what affects one affects another,” Sabby said. “We stand in support of the faculty, staff and students in Carbondale. But we want certain assurances.”

Therefore, instead of opposing the loan outright, the SIUE faculty requested that the trustees place limits on the loan:

▪  A defined limit on the amount of money that would be diverted, rather than a percentage or other “moving target”;

▪  Specific terms on repayment of the funds, including the interest lost by removing them from interest-bearing accounts, and a timeline for doing so; and

▪  The framework of a plan to “right-size” SIUC’s program offerings so that it can return to being self-sufficient.

“The current state of SIUC’s intentions and the conditions of the diversion of funds are vague and provide no basis on which SIUE can adequately plan for its own operations and the projects for which those reserve funds were earmarked,” the resolution read. “This places SIUE at risk of being unable to properly manage our own institution, as a consequence of SIUC’s management issues.”

Sabby pointed out that SIUC has already depleted its own reserves and the reserves of the medical school, and is afraid of the same thing happening to Edwardsville’s reserves. He said that is why they want to see a plan for Carbondale to return to self-sufficiency, regardless of the state budget issues — and a cap on the loan.

“It doesn’t read like a loan, it reads like a revolving credit card,” Sabby said. “If for whatever goofy reason the state finally comes through, Carbondale could just go back to the way things were.”

Dunn said the administration expected the SIUE faculty would weigh in, and the resolutions reflected the conversations he has been having with SIUE representatives.

“SIU takes shared governance very seriously,” he said. “I think the trustees are hearing the big concerns expressed by the Edwardsville faculty and constituency bodies.”

Dunn said he believes when the board takes up the issue in May, the issues of set terms for borrowing and a cap on the amount of the loan will be addressed. He also said he expects to see a full report on $30 million in budget cuts at Carbondale to be finished by May 1, which is expected to be reviewed by a task force. The goal is to establish a financial sustainability plan to be voted by the board in July.

“Given the magnitude of what’s going on, there will be reorganizations and wholesale changes,” Dunn said.

If the board of trustees does not approve the diversion of funds from SIUE, the only option for Carbondale would be to tap its restricted funds. Those are generally building and construction funds, grants, or other money earmarked for a specific purpose. Dunn has said that such a move would be legally questionable, and would certainly trigger a financial audit and/or lawsuits.

Funding inequality

The other issue raised by the SIUE Faculty Senate may take more negotiation. The money allocated to SIU as a system from the state has been divided 70-30 between the campuses for at least 50 years, with the bulk of the funds going to SIUC and the medical school, Sabby said. Tuition funds generated within each campus stay with that campus; the split only applies to state appropriations.

But Sabby said that division no longer makes sense, as SIUE’s student population has grown by 30 percent since 1989 while Carbondale has lost at least 30 percent in that time.

The two campuses now have almost the same number of students, and Carbondale is predicted to lose another 300 to 500 this fall, Sabby said.

Kim Archer, president of the SIUE Faculty Association union that represents tenure-track professors, said they support a more equitable distribution of funds between campuses.

“While both faculties have the same professional credentials, SIUE faculty teach more classes and make lower salaries in general, while SIUC continues to command a disproportionate amount of system resources,” she said. “An increase in SIUE’s share is critical for achieving fair consideration for the hard work and dedication to Illinois students that both campuses provide, and recognizes SIUE’s continued growth and now nearly-equal enrollment with SIUC.”

Edwardsville’s enrollment could conceivably surpass Carbondale’s in a very short time, Sabby said. The Faculty Senate therefore passed a resolution requesting that the board of trustees consider a plan of “reapportionment,” to reconsider the division of funding between the two campuses.

“There needs to be fairness,” Sabby said.

Dunn said historically the split was established because Carbondale was a “high research activity” campus with a larger and more expensive research infrastructure for graduate education and research. However, he said the board will consider reviewing the division of state funds in a future budget.

However, he said it would be a “more comprehensive, formula-driven process that would likely be phased in over a certain number of years, not something determined unilaterally, which seems to be the history of the (percentages).”

The SIU Board of Trustees is tentatively scheduled to meet on May 10 at the Edwardsville campus to vote on the interfund loan and potentially on a new chancellor for SIUC.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald