Springfield, IL – A fight over scarce state funding has the two Southern Illinois University main campuses – Edwardsville and Carbondale – moving toward splitting up.
Four state representatives from the Metro-East are calling on the Illinois Board of Higher Education to study whether the university system should be broken, with the two schools made independent.
They have also sponsored a bill to abolish the current SIU Board of Trustees and replace it with two new boards.
One board would control the Carbondale campus. The other would oversee the Edwardsville campus – plus the SIU schools of medicine (in Springfield), dental medicine (in Alton), pharmacy (in Edwardsville), nursing (in Edwardsville), law (in Carbondale) and the SIU East St Louis Center.
This follows the SIU board’s veto of a $5.1 million funding shift from Carbondale to Edwardsville, proposed by system President Randy Dunn to recognize enrollment changes. The shift was intended to boost SIUE funding to about 40 percent of the system’s total instead of 36 percent.
Enrollment has been near equal in recent years. SIUC used to have more than 20,000 students, but both campuses now tend to have 13,000 to 14,000. The bill notes that SIUE enrollment grew by 26.8 percent from 1996 to 2016, while SIUC enrollment declined during that time.
Representatives calling for the study include Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville), Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea), LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis) and Monica Bristow (D-Godfrey).
“As a former instructor at the Edwardsville campus, I have seen Edwardsville outpace Carbondale’s campus while not receiving our full allotment of state resources under the funding plan for the SIU system,” Stuart said.
“Asking an independent entity to assess the true necessities for both schools is not an unreasonable request, and we should explore that course of action.”
Another bill the group has filed would require that for any money appropriated to SIUC, an equal amount would be allotted to SIUE.
Hoffman noted that the combined university system may have run its course.
“While the SIU system has enjoyed great success over the years, it has become increasingly evident that independence between the two schools may be necessary to meet their unique financial situations,” he said. “We believe that the Board of Higher Education should lead an effort to evaluate the separation of the schools, given their financial differences and polarizing enrollment figures, to explore a new path forward.”
The bills remain pending in the House.
Five former SIUE chancellors have signed a letter calling on the current SIU trustees to reallocate money between the campuses. If not, the former chancellors said they would support splitting the two campuses into separate universities.
The chancellors who signed the letter, Nancy Belck, Julie Furst-Bowe, Stephen Hansen, Vaughn Vandegrift and David Werner, led SIUE from 1997 to 2016.
The letter stated: “Trustees are meant to guide the universities to assure that higher education remains responsible to the needs of the public. Sometimes changes are necessary in order to better serve the needs of the public.”
The current SIU board met on May 30 to consider the legislation and said it would not support a 50-50 split in funding, dissolution of the system, splitting the campuses nor reconstituting the board for equal representation. It took no position on the independent study proposal.
That vote prompted Stuart to launch a petition campaign to collect signatures in support of the study. To join in, call Stuart at 618-365-6650 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. To sign online, go to goo.gl/forms/ElcEh88CZH3CiJJp2.