Members of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville faculty and staff on Tuesday told legislators from around the state that there should be equitable funding between the SIUC and SIUE campuses.
The Illinois House Committee on Higher Education on Tuesday held the second of two public forums about the ongoing financial issues between Southern Illinois Universities Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses.
The hearing took place on the second day of classes on campus of the fall semester.
Presently, a state appropriation is split 64 percent to 36 percent with the Carbondale campus receiving the larger share.
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The failure of an effort to shift $5 million in state funding from Carbondale to Edwardsville led to metro-east state representatives to introduce a package of bills, including one calling for a split between the two campuses, one calling for a 50/50 split in the state appropriation, and one reconstituting the board of trustees to ensure equal representation between the two areas.
State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, said those bills are on hold pending study of the issue.
During Tuesday’s hearing, those who spoke called for fair and equitable funding.
Kim Archer, president of the union at Edwardsville called SIUE needing to loan money to SIUC a slap in the face to Edwardsville.
“After all, we were also entering our fourth year without so much as a half-percent cost of living adjustment, while some administrators on our campus quietly received five-figure raises,” Archer said.
She then said when the reallocation didn’t occur, “it was the second slap in the face, another blow to morale,” Archer said. “The first time may have been well-intentioned, if mishandled response to a crisis, but the second time it felt intentional.”
Sorin Nastasia, a professor of Applied Communications Studies, pointed out the growth in student enrollment at SIUE over the years.He said the loan to Carbondale came after SIUE cut its expenses.
Enrollment at SIUE is expected to surpass SIUC this fall.
He said the distribution of state money remains inequitable and has a negative effects on students.
“The current reality of the SIU system is not the same as it was 20 years ago, yet the distribution of state funds has remained the same and thus should be changed,” Nastasia said.
State Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, who is the chairman of the Higher Education Committee, said he would take what he heard back to the higher education working group and talk about how to better provide money to the SIU system, as well as pay for universities around the state.
“Hopefully we could roll up our sleeves and come up with some answers,” Welch said. “I honestly believe more funding is really the answer. They’re fighting over scraps. If they were properly funded, I don’t think we would be having this discussion.”
During Monday’s hearing in Carbondale, the message from those in attendance was to keep two universities together because they would be stronger as one system.
“I think both campuses know their strengths and weaknesses,” Welch said. “Carbondale knows their issues, but a lot of that has to do with the General Assembly’s failure to properly invest in higher education. A two-and-a-half year budget impasse was like a punch in the gut,” Welch said.
Several of those who spoke in front of the committee questioned whether the current board of trustees favors the Carbondale campus.
Stuart has asked the Illinois Board of Higher Education to carry out an independent study, and the Board of Trustees is in the process of hiring a consultant to conduct its own study. Stuart said there would be doubts to validity of the SIU Board study if it was the only one.
“If the board commissions a study, great,” Stuart said. “But what would be the disadvantage of having the second study done by the board of higher education. If they confirm each other’s results, great. It’s just more evidence for us that we could move the right way forward, whatever that tends to be. Is it a discussion on how funds are allocated, is it a discussion on how the board is made up or is it that kind of discussion on how to split up the campuses? Whatever it leads to. I believe the more study the better.”
State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, but pointed out she is originally from the metro-east, and still has family in the area.
She also said an independent study by the the Board of Higher Education can also be questioned.
“We could all make those kind of arguments. It is my hope that whoever is chosen to do that study will be truly independent. And the numbers that we see will be data and researched based,” Bryan said.
She mentioned that SIUC also has differed maintenance on its campus that needs to be addressed.
“We have a very much older campus in Carbondale that has about $600 million in deferred maintenance,” Bryant said. “This is a very beautiful campus it’s a little bit younger, so deferred maintenance is less. However that doesn’t mean that doesn’t have to be done or you don’t want to build new buildings. WE have to be careful about distribution because if you want equal, equal cuts both ways.”