State lawmakers are busy acting like divorce lawyers after trustees refused to shift state dollars between Southern Illinois University's two campuses.
The better role would be of marriage counselors.
Bills to separate the Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses into their own entities seem rash, especially in a state where we've seen administration grow by more than one-third in a decade while enrollment grew a few percentage points. Consolidating the state's university systems, so more resources go toward instruction and students, should be the goal — not multiplying that overhead.
The argument between Edwardsville and Carbondale should be about simple math.
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Trustees failed to shift $5.1 million in state dollars, which would have represented a 60-40 split between the two main campuses. Rather than fomenting a revolution for independence, lawmakers should force the funding issue.
Edwardsville should not be treated as the younger sibling. The split was about 70-30, so the 60-40 would be a step in the right direction.
But in truth, state dollars should follow students. The split should be governed by the enrollment.
Fall enrollment was just slightly greater in Carbondale. If the split were truly fair, the $142 million the state gave the system would be tied to the enrollment at each campus and split 51 percent SIUC and 49 percent SIUE. Instead of getting $51.6 million, SIUE would be entitled to $69.1 million.
The campuses would have greater incentive to keep tuition in check and to compete for students if their funding were tied to their ability to attract and keep those students. Because Carbondale has little incentive to change, it has allowed stagnation to kill their enrollment.
Illinois just waged battle against inequity in elementary and secondary education funding and came up with a new formula. Higher education needs that same dose of fairness.