SIU President Randy Dunn and SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook addressed a room full of SIUE students, faculty and staff April 30 to answer questions about Dunn’s recent proposal to borrow money from Edwardsville to keep the SIU Carbondale campus operational.
Dunn announced his decision March 29, in his column, “The System Connection,” which also said Carbondale will have to be making around $30 million in cuts. He said Carbondale is projected to be in deficit spending within the next month.
Dunn said he can identify the $30 million worth of cuts Carbondale has to make.
“If I was put in a room and told to do it, I know it can be done,” Dunn said.
Although the campus will definitely have to make millions of dollars in cuts next year assuming a budget will not pass, Edwardsville is in much better shape. The money Carbondale will be borrowing will come from Edwardsville’s unrestricted funds, which Dunn said should not have any impact on the day to day operations of the Edwardsville campus.
Dunn assured the SIUE community that Carbondale will pay back the money. The time frame is not confirmed yet, but Dunn said it depends on whether or not the state provides stopgap funding to the university.
Aside from lack of state funding, Carbondale’s situation has been affected by a lower student enrollment and failure to make proper cuts in the past.
“Even if we come back with a sizable cash infusion on a stopgap, and we get a [2017-18] budget, Carbondale has to go in and do these things anyway,” Dunn said.
Edwardsville, on the other hand, has had increasing enrollment numbers and has made cuts over the past couple of years, putting it in a slightly better position.
The decision did not sit well with some members of the SIUE community, like Institutional Research and Studies Director Phil Brown.
“I find this incredibly demoralizing,” Brown said. “After all these years of SIUE cutting, being efficient and doing more and more with less and less, it’s just hard to face another round of cuts when the impression is Carbondale hasn’t done any of this.”
Dunn said he understands the frustration, and he knows Carbondale will have to make much bigger cuts than the $20 million it has cut over the past two years to deal with the structural budget problem the campus has.
“They have to tackle this structural deficit of having too much program for too few kids. As enrollments dropped over the years at Carbondale, the inventory has not been adjusted with it. In fact, it’s almost been ignored,” Dunn said.
Another concern was brought up by Student Body President Luke Jansen. Since both Dunn and Pembrook’s announcements were only sent out to faculty and staff, Jansen said he was concerned with the lack of communication to the students on campus.
“Students did not receive either of your statements, and that concerns me a lot, considering that we’re talking about student money,” Jansen said during the Q&A.
Pembrook said there has been question about the best way to deliver this kind of information to students in the past, but he can send emails out to students as long as it is effective.
Besides the student communication issue, Jansen said he understands the need for SIUE to help SIUC. He said the schools are like a family, and they need to work together to keep each other going.
“Essentially, it’s not exactly ideal for us. However, this is what part of being in a system of schools is. We’ve got to help each other out,” Jansen said.
The Board of Trustees will address the new proposals at its meeting 10 a.m. Thursday, April 6 in Carbondale.