Responding to a funding proposal

I have received a number of questions from our campus and community about a proposal to be considered by our Board of Trustees regarding the potential reallocation of state funding from the Carbondale campus to the Edwardsville campus. The proposal requests the reallocation of $5.125 million in funding for Carbondale to be shifted to Edwardsville effective with the new fiscal year. It is described as the first phase of a funding shift based solely on enrollment.

A sudden, $5.1 million reduction in state funding:

  • Could compromise our financial recovery and stability
  • Would be equal to the layoff of as many as 110 faculty and staff
  • Could damage our student recruitment efforts
  • Would take more than $39 million from the local economy

Given the harm that could be caused by an immediate change, and to allow adequate time for the Carbondale campus to provide input, 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.

Further exploration needed

There are many concerns related to the proposal that should be explored.  Many of the metrics cited are misleading or unclear. Further, the proposal presumes that enrollment is the primary factor upon which any future formula will be based, but there is far more that should be considered.

The Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses have very different missions, affecting each institution’s faculty profile and the cost of program delivery. Hiring faculty at a doctoral research institution is more competitive. In addition, many of our programs require small faculty/student ratios and some, such as agriculture, require a large infrastructure to support student learning. In addition, research institutions must support a larger, more complex physical infrastructure to support their missions.

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. 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.

Investing in the future

SIU Carbondale is repositioning itself for the future. We are actively working on growing enrollment, and we are already seeing progress. For example, attendance at our most recent open house last week was the highest since 2016 and included a number of high school sophomores and juniors.

We have managed our budget challenges carefully and responsibly. We are working to further reduce administrative costs and redundancies so that we can reinvest in our programs and people. If we stay on course, even with our expected fall enrollment, we project that we will end FY19 with a balanced operating budget. We should also begin to see some enrollment growth in fall 2019 due to our reorganization and our investments in student services and campus life.

Changing the funding formula now, when we need to be investing in the future, takes us off course. It will inhibit our ability to grow enrollment, to end FY19 with a balanced operating budget, to provide our faculty and staff with the raises they deserve, and to realize the promise of SIU Carbondale.

I do not fault my colleagues at SIU Edwardsville for making a case that they believe is in the interest of their institution. However, I feel strongly that a sudden, unexplored plan to advance one institution while damaging another is not in the best interests of the SIU System, any institution that is a part of it, or the Southern Illinois region.

Author: Carlo Montemagno

Carlo Montemagno is chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Learn more about him at chancellor.siu.edu.