The growing rivalry between SIU's Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses takes center stage this week as the system's board of trustees considers a plan to reallocate more than $5 million from SIU Carbondale to its sister campus -- a move many fear would deal a further blow to Carbondale and the surrounding economy.
The SIU board of trustees, meeting Thursday on the Carbondale campus, will consider a proposal to reallocate an additional $5.125 million of the state's SIU FY2019 appropriation from the Carbondale campus to the Edwardsville campus.
The proposal stems from a resolution the SIUE Faculty Senate passed last month urging the board of trustees to "create a new, fair and dynamic formula ... predicated primarily on enrollment data."
While the Carbondale campus has long been the flagship university, more than a decade of student enrollment declines, coupled with steady enrollment gains on the Edwardsville campus, have virtually erased any disparity in the size of the two student bodies.
In 1999, with a total head count of 22,596, SIU Carbondale boasted nearly twice the student enrollment of its sister campus in Edwardsville. Last fall, Carbondale's enrollment had dwindled to 14,184 -- just 388 students more than what Edwardsville reported for 2017.
During that same period, however, the distribution of state funding between the two campuses has given about 64 percent of the total money to Carbondale. The total state appropriation for the two campuses in FY2018 was nearly $143 million, with the Carbondale campus claiming about $91.3 million.
While constituency groups at SIU Edwardsville seek completely equitable distribution of appropriations based on enrollment, the proposal before the board lays out "a phased-in transition of state appropriation funding over a few years, beginning in FY 2019."
SIU Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno, who continues to push for an academic reorganization on the Carbondale campus, says the sudden $5.1 million reduction in state funding to the Carbondale campus would "be equal to the layoff of as many as 110 faculty and staff," obstruct student retention efforts and could take more than $39 million out of the Carbondale-area economy.
"I have asked trustees to consider delaying potential alterations to the funding formula until an impartial analysis is conducted with the expertise of an external consultant," Montemagno said in a blog post last week.
Since 2014, the Carbondale campus has seen state funding fall by about 12 percent -- a slide compounded by the two-year state budget impasse, during which all Illinois universities received only a fraction of their usual funding. Declines in tuition, tied to the decline in enrollment, have added to the crisis in Carbondale.
"While the long-term impact of the proposal would be very damaging, the impact of reducing our budget by more than $5 million in just a few months is our most immediate concern," Montemagno said. "Since 2014, SIU Carbondale has reduced its budget by more than $31 million and has about 500 fewer employees.
"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."
The proposal before the board argues that while undergraduate enrollment numbers on the two campuses are roughly equal, Carbondale has substantially more graduate and doctoral students. Carbondale, with a greater focus on research, gets more grants than its Edwardsville counterpart.
The proposal also lays the groundwork for a third-party study in pursuit of "an ostensibly more sophisticated and nuanced formula to justify an appropriate percentage of state support going to each campus."
Nevertheless, some local leaders have joined Montemagno in urging caution to the board. As part of a joint statement issued last week, U.S. congressman Mike Bost said the board of trustees should delay action on the proposal, particularly since the board is down one member at the moment. State legislators Paul Schimpf, Terri Bryant, Dale Fowler, Dave Severin and Natalie Phelps Finnie joined Bost in asking for postponement.
"I'm concerned there is a push to make a quick decision to divert funds from Carbondale to Edwardsville by a board of trustees that currently has a vacant seat," Bost said. "We're talking about moving a lot of money out of Carbondale's economy. We should slow down, study this, and at the very least have a fully-slated board of trustees before making such a vitally important decision."
On Monday, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced his appointment of longtime SIU administrator Tom Britton to the board. That appointment is subject to Senate approval later this spring.
Schimpf, whose 58th District includes Carbondale, said that while he supports looking for ways to make the funding ratio between the two campuses more equitable, he also is concerned about the board's current vacancy.
"The current proposal is scheduled to go before an incomplete board of trustees, without the benefit of outside, impartial study, at a time when SIUC is in the midst of a reorganization," Schimpf said.
State Rep. Terri Bryant, of Murphysboro, said the proposal as written will bring further destruction to the Carbondale campus.