College offers free-tuition ‘test drive’


CARLINVILLE — Blackburn College is initiating a new program to welcome transfer students with free tuition.

Students can now “test-drive” the college with free tuition their first semester to see how the school provides a unique educational setting.

“We saw this as an opportunity to let transfer students experience the exceptional academic programs Blackburn College provides and how the college is focused on accessible and affordable education,” Blackburn College President John Comerford said.

“It is a great way for transfer students to find out, first-hand, how they like the college—without paying any tuition for the fall semester,” he continued.

Students must be from Illinois, meet certain requirements — including participating in the college’s work program — and meet usual admission requirements for transfer students.


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College offers free-tuition ‘test drive’

Guest view: Illinois grads, act to bolster university system

Representing the more than 700,000 living alumni, including nearly 400,000 in the state of Illinois, more than 100 alumni from the University of Illinois System’s three universities convened at the state Capitol on May 10 to meet with legislators for University of Illinois Alumni Day at the Capitol. University System President Tim Killeen, Executive Vice President and Vice President for Academic Affairs Barb Wilson, U of I at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert Jones, U of I at Chicago Chancellor Michael Amiridis, U of I at Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch and other University leaders joined alumni in their efforts to meet with members of the General Assembly.

Illinois Connection – the legislative advocacy network of the University of Illinois Alumni Association – and the University’s Office of Governmental Relations coordinate the annual event that brings alumni together to advocate on behalf of the University of Illinois.

As the state has been operating without a budget for nearly two years, the advocacy efforts and support of alumni are needed now more than ever. Higher education is essential to the state’s economic vitality, and the University of Illinois can be part of the solution to the budget crisis. The university has introduced a 5-year program, the Investment, Performance and Accountability Commitment (IPAC) proposal, to provide the university a stable level of financial support. IPAC will hold the University accountable to the state in delivering it missions of affordable education, workforce preparation, innovation and economic development. IPAC would require the university to admit a certain number of Illinois residents, while also creating the Invest in Illinoisans program to provide over $125 million per year in financial aid for Illinois residents.

The University of Illinois provides value to every citizen across the state through its educational, research and outreach programs. As the state’s leading and most comprehensive public higher education system, here are just a few ways the U of I System is providing value:

• U of I Hospital and Health Sciences System is the state’s largest public healthcare provider

• U of I Extension shares expertise and knowledge in every county in the state. More than 1.5 million residents participate in U of I Extension programs each year.

• Many of the world’s greatest discoveries and inventions originated at the University of Illinois, including the first computer-based education system, home air-conditioning systems, the first post-secondary disability support service program in the world, cancer therapeutics and the first treatment for multi-drug resistant HIV.

• More than 80,000 students enroll annually, including students from 101 of 102 counties in the state. More than 80 percent of students are Illinois residents.

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• One of the state’s largest employers, with nearly 30,000 full-time employees

• Annual state economic impact is $14 billion

Speaking to my fellow alumni and friends of the university system: Please get involved in supporting your university. Currently, our state ranks 50th in its support for higher education. Our degrees are only as good as the university’s ranking and reputation. Not only are we helping future students by supporting and advocating for our Alma Mater, but we are also helping increase the value of our degrees. Let’s all do our part to help maintain the reputation and stature of our cherished institution. 

Guest view: Illinois grads, act to bolster university system

Illinois colleges taking serious hit from state budget impasse

Posted: May. 7, 2017 12:01 am

Our state is on a historic quest for a better economy, for a better tomorrow. Both political parties are adamant that Illinois must do more to create jobs, keep Illinoisans from fleeing the state and give our children hope that our best days are yet to come.

And yet every day, the longer the state’s budget impasse continues, the more one catalyst to that growth we all wish for pays a serious price: our college and university campuses around Illinois.

In his latest budget address, Gov. Bruce Rauner again proposed cuts to higher education. He called for a small increase in funds for the Monetary Award Program, but MAP grants haven’t been funded this year. The last two years of devastating funding cuts to MAP grants and operating funds for Illinois colleges and universities have been only an extreme example of 15 years of defunding, devaluing and dismantling this state’s once nationally ranked higher education system.

Higher education has its perception problems: charges of inefficiency, duplicative programs and administrative bloat. But try telling the leaders of many communities around the state that those concerns are worth the costs of draconian funding cuts.

In Bloomington, the local impact is enormous from three local colleges and universities: $725 million, with more than 4,500 jobs. Just south in Decatur, nearly $200 million is generated from Millikin University and Richland Community College. From Rockford to Carbondale, Quincy to Champaign, and Springfield to the Metro East, colleges and universities drive local economies and prepare our next generation of leaders and workforce. Yet the longer this budget impasse runs, the more paralyzed our system becomes — and the more the costs of this crisis grow.

It’s too easy to ignore higher education’s value and benefits, because we take them for granted. As the state has cut more than $1 billion from 2000-2015 — 36.4 percent — in higher education funding and aid for students, we fail to appreciate how much a role colleges and universities play to provide higher average salaries, better health, longer employment, more tax support for local services and much more.

As the House, Senate and governor debate approving a full-year budget or more short-term help through stopgap/lifeline solutions, higher education withers away. It’s not that our policymakers can’t recognize the need for urgent action when economic crisis rears its head. When Exelon, Sears and CME needed help, or when other businesses asked for incentives to stay and expand here, those calls were heard and addressed. Why not higher education? After all, it’s a mammoth employer: $50 billion in economic impact annually, with 800,000 students and 175,000 employees in more than 200 locations.

As the discussion at the Capitol centers on Illinois’ economic recovery and building a stronger workforce and tax base, slashing higher ed is hypocritical, counterproductive and digging our hole deeper. Students are choosing out-of-state schools or skipping college altogether. Others are deciding not to come back after going away for school. Talented faculty and staff are laid off and leaving for better opportunities elsewhere. And with each blow, the recovery takes much longer than the initial damage.

Until the trend in funding for higher education is reversed, the promise of a better Illinois is an illusion. A state without a plan is a state with a very dim future.


Illinois colleges taking serious hit from state budget impasse

Poshard steps away from college post two months in

WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. • After just more than two months on the job, former congressman and Southern Illinois University president Glenn Poshard has resigned as president of Morthland College here.

Poshard said he tendered his resignation April 26 through a letter to college founder Tim Morthland, effective immediately.

As for his reasons for leaving his post, Poshard read the following statement:

“I believe strongly in the vision and the mission of Morthland College and the opportunity it provides in offering students a faith-based, Christian education, however there are serious issues — both personnel and financial — of which I was not notified when I began as president, and which, I concluded, could only be resolved by an authority other than myself.”

However, Leigh Caldwell, public relations and marketing director for Morthland College, said college officials were given other reasons for Poshard stepping down.

“He resigned for health reasons, that is what he told us,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell confirmed that an emergency meeting was called after Poshard presented the letter, during which the board asked Morthland to return as president. He accepted.

Caldwell was unsure how long Morthland would be in the position.

“I am certain at some point there will be a leadership change,” she said. “I don’t know how quickly that will come.”

She said the decision was quick because they needed someone to fill the leadership role.

This is the last week of regular classes at Morthland with finals next week. Commencement will be May 13.

“We are finishing out the semester and things are fine,” Caldwell said.

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Poshard steps away from college post two months in

Gauen: Slow change of fortunes erases SIUE’s inferiority complex

I was a student journalist when Delyte W. Morris, the visionary who built Southern Illinois University into a major institution, strode across a meeting room to introduce himself and hand me a cup of coffee.

Only much later did I acquire the wisdom to recognize the real significance of that gesture at my first visit to a board of trustees meeting. “Wow!” I thought. “That’s how he did it! That’s how he got what he needed from the politicians.”

Charm was only one of the implements in the university president’s toolbox, but a powerful one.

Having steered the Carbondale school from a teachers college into a well-funded university of broad instruction, Morris was looking north by the 1950s, to Metro East. The second largest population center in Illinois had no four-year public higher education institution.

Thus began modest outreach classes in Alton and East St. Louis. The acquisition of 2,660 acres of mostly farmland outside Edwardsville spoke to plans for something much grander.

SIUE classes opened in 1965. I arrived as a freshman three years later in the midst of a tumultuous time. Disgust with the Vietnam War, racial discrimination and pollution boiled over simultaneously, on campus and beyond.

There soon would be some internal disgust brewing at SIU, too, that would expedite the end of the Morris era. In 1969, we learned the school had spent $1 million in discretionary funds (about $6.6 million in today’s money) to build a presidential residence in Carbondale.

Outraged legislators held hearings. Wary trustees soon stripped Morris of much of his power. And all this unfolded against a backdrop of internal jealousies.

There were more than a few people in Carbondale who saw theirs as the “real” university. It had lots more programs and lots more students — thousands of them living on campus. I’ll hold short of broadly applying the word “arrogant,” but at least a few were.

Up on the northern end, many of us at Edwardsville had a little inferiority complex. Ours was a commuter school, with limited offerings and huge parking lots in places where a big college might have towering dorms. Lots of our students lived with their parents and drove to classes in a fashion not so different from their high school years.

We understood that our branch was purpose-built to bring higher education to people who were unable or unwilling to go away to school. Plenty of our graduates gratefully saw it that way and could not have cared less about campus rivalries.

But in some circles, the chafing was painful. And it flared over the Morris house scandal.

At the time, SIUE did have one big advantage: John S. Rendleman.

Charismatic beyond description, the Morris protege was the perfect choice for chancellor of the fledgling campus. I was proud to know the brilliant and elegant man, whose confidence was contagious. Nobody felt second class under his first-class leadership.

The rub was that in a previous role as a university lawyer, Rendleman had blessed the legality of spending money on the house without approval up the state line. Although the trustees had signed off too, Rendleman ended up sitting on the same hot griddle as Morris.

The Carbondale-Edwardsville divide might never have been wider than then. Some called for a full separation of the schools, which were pretty autonomous anyway. (That idea would come back periodically through the years, without action.)

Perhaps the ultimate slap was when the SIUC Student Senate called for resignation of SIUE’s beloved Rendleman.

The estimable journalist Timothy Middleton, then editor of SIUE’s student newspaper, the Alestle, reacted with an editorial under the deliciously blunt headline “Carbondale can roast in Hell, doo da, doo da.” It mocked “the audacity to suggest that hemorrhoids in Carbondale could be cured by an operation in Edwardsville.”

In the end, Rendleman weathered the storm but his mentor did not. After 22 years of empire building, Morris retired the next year. Rendleman soldiered on at SIUE until dying, at just 48, of lung cancer in 1976.

Over the decades, SIUE built programs and residence halls, closing the dignity gap, while Carbondale struggled with flagging enrollment.

Last fall, SIUC registered 15,987 students, the fewest since 1964. At the same time, SIUE had 14,142, just 123 below its record high set the year before.

While both suffer from the state’s perpetual budget emergency, SIUC is almost literally out of spendable cash. Officials are working on a deal — controversial among some constituents on the Edwardsville end — to lend perhaps half of SIUE’s $70 million in unrestricted reserves to its sister.

I presume it will happen. I think John Rendleman would want it. And in his classy way he would flash a knowing smile without ever mentioning a word about the irony.

Gauen: Slow change of fortunes erases SIUE’s inferiority complex

SIU Admissions looking to the future

Dustin Duncan
Carbondale Times


It’s no secret to the Southern Illinois community that Southern Illinois University has experienced declining enrollment for several years. 

Terri Harfst, director of the SIU Financial Aid office and director of undergraduate admissions, said the university has taken steps to change that trend. 

She said in the past the university had been purchasing fewer names from various sources for students who take the ACT or SAT tests. She said the university had only been purchasing the names of students who were seniors in high school to recruit them to SIU. 

“When you start thinking about college selection, you know that when you are thinking about college, you didn’t start making decisions your senior year in high school,” Harfst said. “That is a process that requires us to be out in front of students and parents early on.

“So, when they start making those decisions as juniors and seniors, there’s that brand recognition about SIU Carbondale.”  

Harfst said the fewer name buys didn’t impact the fall of 2016, but that decision is affecting the university now and beyond. She said the university has changed that policy and are now purchasing names at an increased rate. 

The day before this past Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting, Harfst presented to the board information about students who applied to SIU and didn’t enroll at the university. 

She said about 60 percent of the students who didn’t come to Carbondale went to another four-year university. About 20 percent went to a two-year college or community college and the remaining student either didn’t go to college or went to a school that didn’t turn in data to be reflected in the report used. 

Of those students who went to an in-state, four-year university that applied to Carbondale, but didn’t enroll — 23 percent went to Illinois State, 18 percent went to University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 14 percent went to Western Illinois and 13 percent went to University of Illinois Chicago and Northern Illinois, respectively. 

For those students who decided to enroll at a private university in Illinois — 13 percent went to Loyola, 12 percent to DePaul, 11 percent to Bradley, 11 percent to St. Xavier University and 11 percent to Lewis University. 

Not all students who applied to SIU went to in-state schools, either. The data presented by Harfst said 11 percent of applicants went to Southeast Missouri State, 9 percent went to University of Missouri-Columbia, 8 percent to Ball State and 7 percent to Iowa State, to name a few public universities. 

She said about 25 percent of the students in the area are going to regional community colleges in the Southern Illinois area. 

“We know that they are out there, and we need to start recruiting them to get to in SIU Carbondale,” Harfst said. 

She reported the applications and admissions for the fall of 2017 are down from the previous year. She said if the university can yield about 25 to 27 percent of the students it is recruiting, the incoming class will be about what it was the previous year. 

“But with the financial situation in the state, I don’t know how it is going to turn out,” she said. “We won’t see those numbers until the second week of classes in fall 2017.” 

Harfst addressed perceptions about SIU the admission department struggles with when talking with prospective students and their parents. She said the staff hears SIU is unsafe, its academic reputation is less than other schools and the geographic location is undesirable to some. 

“Those campuses who are getting out in front of the state funding issue and saying ‘we are here, we aren’t going anywhere, we have money and we are spending money,’ are getting those students,” she said. 

SIU President Randy Dunn said there are a lot of students in the Southern Illinois area that could come to SIU that aren’t. 

“We have too many students who can — particularly from central and Southern Illinois — who can come to SIU Carbondale, have huge success, (and) a great university experience who are suddenly getting advised away from that,” he said. “We have to push out that message of what we have to offer — the great experience, the opportunity, the institution and all these things we are trying to talk about. Don’t short-sell the importance of that. It’s huge.” 

SIU Trustee Joel Sambursky asked how a university can curb the safety perception. 

“Safety is the toughest issue from a marketing standpoint. The more you brag about it, it takes one incident to make it come back and then it backfires,” said Rae Goldsmith, chief marketing and communications officer at SIU. “We have to build it into the conversation with our current students and alumni now. We are in a small media market. So, things that happen on other campuses every day get more attention here.” 

Goldsmith said a lot of the university’s safety and perception issues aren’t just associated with the campus, but also the city of Carbondale. 

“We have this small-town college community feel issue that adds to that. It is an issue we are really well aware of,” she said.

SIU Admissions looking to the future