For now, the Southern Illinois University system isn’t moving forward with a proposal to shift state money from its Carbondale campus to the Edwardsville campus because of enrollment changes.
The SIU Board of Trustees voted 4-3 Thursday against a proposal to send $5.1 million of SIUC’s state funding to SIUE for the upcoming academic year.
Trustee Randal Thomas, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, abstained from voting.
The proposal also included a plan to conduct a study to help officials eventually come up with a new formula for deciding how much money each campus should get moving forward.
SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook said after the meeting that the study is still expected to take place, likely in the 2018-19 academic year. He said SIU President Randy Dunn plans to find a consultant.
Supporters of a shift in state funding argue that SIUE should get a larger share than it has previously because enrollment there is almost the same as it is at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
In the past, the Edwardsville campus received about 36 percent of the state funding, while Carbondale received roughly 64 percent, according to the proposal trustees considered.
This academic year, Carbondale had 1,128 more students than Edwardsville — a difference of 758 students in the fall and 370 in the spring — according to each university’s enrollment data.
SIUE is expecting to see a 10-12 percent increase in freshmen and a 20 percent increase in graduate students in fall 2018 compared with last year, according to Pembrook.
He said an increase in state funding would help SIUE put more money into the programs that are growing, including nursing and online classes. It could also help more students enroll because Pembrook said SIUE either wouldn’t need to raise tuition or it would be able to add scholarships.
SIU President Dunn had recommended that trustees approve the proposal Thursday. The three trustees who voted in favor of it, Amy Sholar, Shirley Portwood and Luke Jansen, all have ties to SIUE.
The trustees who voted against it wanted more information about the variables that could go into a new funding formula for the campuses and more time to consider it, according to Pembrook.
The proposal they considered Thursday suggested that it could include factors besides enrollment, such as facility needs and costs, research funding and “productivity,” the educational and public service needs of the Southern Illinois communities and the economic impact of the universities.
Pembrook said the study by a consultant could offer answers about how those variables would be measured. Research productivity, for instance, could be measured by grants or published articles, he said.
He’s glad to see the conversation started.
“What I consider to be the inequity, this hasn’t been looked at in at least 20 years,” Pembrook said.
Some Democratic state representatives expressed their support of the plan to shift the state funding before trustees voted. State Reps. Jay Hoffman, of Swansea; Katie Stuart, of Edwardsville; LaToya Greenwood, of East St. Louis; and Monica Bristow, of Godfrey, released a joint statement Tuesday.
In a message to the staff and community Thursday, Pembrook said Rep. Hoffman would soon be introducing legislation to create separate trustee boards at Carbondale and Edwardsville.
Other lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, and State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, suggested that the SIU trustees wait to vote until a vacant seat on the board was filled or until a study is conducted.
Gov. Bruce Rauner recently appointed Tom Britton, a retired SIUC vice chancellor, to the fill the seat. Britton voted against the proposal to shift the state funding Thursday.
In Carbondale, the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association also asked the trustees to conduct a study before voting to shift any money because it thought SIUC, as well as local and regional economies, “would be devastated” by the move, according to a statement.
SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno wrote about the harm he said the proposal would cause for the Carbondale campus in a blog post.
“Since 2014, SIU Carbondale has reduced its budget by more than $31 million and has about 500 fewer employees,” he wrote. “We cannot absorb any part of the additional $5.1 million reduction by further increasing tuition, by further deferring maintenance of our facilities, or by reducing staff without damaging the quality of programs and services we provide.”
Montemagno asked trustees to delay their vote until after a study, too.
Last year, the SIU Board of Trustees approved a loan of up to $35 million to Carbondale from SIUE’s reserves. SIUC repaid the internal, no-interest loan with its share of the state funding this academic year, according to Pembrook.