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SIU trustees reject reallocating money to SIUE

By Geoffrey Ritter
updated: 4/12/2018 3:02 PM

A proposal to shift $5.1 million from SIU Carbondale to its sister campus in Edwardsville in the coming fiscal year failed to pass muster with the board of trustees Thursday, although the question of equitable funding between the two campuses will remain front and center.

Trustees rejected a proposal to reallocate an additional $5.125 million of the state's SIU FY2019 appropriation from the Carbondale campus to the Edwardsville campus.

Carbondale supporters argued the reallocation would be an economic blow to the region, even as their Edwardsville counterparts argued it would fuel continued growth on that campus and create more equity within the SIU system.

Trustees J. Phil Gilbert, Marsha Ryan, Joel Sambursky and the newly seated Tom Britton -- all with deep ties to Carbondale -- voted against the proposal, defeating it.

A marathon public comments portion of the meeting yielded more than 30 speakers, including a sizable contingent from SIU Edwardsville to support reallocating funds.

While the Carbondale campus historically has been the system's flagship university, more than a decade of enrollment declines here, coupled with steady enrollment gains at Edwardsville, have resulted in almost equal student numbers.

This past fall, Carbondale had only 388 more registered students than Edwardsville. Edwardsville is expected to surpass Carbondale, perhaps as soon as this fall.

SIU Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno had argued against the reallocation, saying a sudden $5.1 million reduction in Carbondale's funds would be "equal to the layoff of as many as 110 faculty and staff."

Local Carbondale officials estimate the loss could also take $39 million from the Carbondale-area economy.

Even while voting against it, several trustees acknowledged the claims of the Edwardsville campus and its quest for equal footing within the SIU system.

Several trustees said they are willing to look at the a more equitable distribution of money, but did not want to risk irreversible damage to the Carbondale campus.

"This is not a vote against SIU Edwardsville," Gilbert stressed.

After the meeting, SIU President Randy Dunn said the university will engage consultants to examine what equitable funding between the two campuses should look like.

While Dunn said the issue of reallocation will be back, Thursday's vote means the new fiscal year's budget will be unaffected.