Editorials

Merge colleges, update majors to stop students from fleeing Illinois

Southern Illinois University Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno is warning that the university needs to be nimble to stop the enrollment slide. He questions whether that is possible with current administrative red tape.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno is warning that the university needs to be nimble to stop the enrollment slide. He questions whether that is possible with current administrative red tape. Provided

Southern Illinois University Carbondale saw its freshman enrollment drop to half of what it was three years ago. That also means less tuition money, atop the state shirking its funding promises.

The new chancellor sees the crisis. Chancellor Carlo Montemagno blames administrative bloat, ossification and red tape for SIUC’s inability to react to the fact that too many prospective students find the university’s offerings to be irrelevant.

“The biggest limitation in our ability to change has been bureaucratic. Artificial boundaries created by the way we count effort and resources,” he said. “In numerous conversations with faculty members, I’ve heard about great ideas to deliver new programs that were stymied by bureaucratic obstruction.”

He wants new programs relevant to the working world that students will enter. He wants to consolidate and eliminate where needed.

But he needs to tame the administration if SIUC is to avoid the abyss.

Across Illinois, college administration grew 26 percent from 2005 to 2015. Instructors and professors grew 2 percent. Enrollment fell 3 percent.

Competition for students is increasing, too, at the same time other states gained Illinois students who were put off by the financial disarray and college grant uncertainty. The University of Illinois is pushing for a 15 percent enrollment increase by freezing tuition and rolling out new programs.

There might be legislative relief in the form of Senate Bill 2234, introduced recently by Assistant Republican Leader Sen. Chapin Rose. U of I is in his backyard.

It seeks reoganization of the state’s higher education system, review of academic programs and integration of community colleges, as well as making the college application process easier online for high school students.

While a Republican proposal that could lead to less government is unlikely to make it out of committee, Illinois’ financial maelstrom requires smart choices.

On the plus side, ignore Carbondale’s plight and maybe Edwardsville will finally emerge as the main campus in the SIU system.

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