One SIUE staffer quipped, “If Carbondale doesn't pay us back we should get their football team.”
“I think I used the word ‘abomination,’” said SIU System President Randy Dunn, describing the State of Illinois’ ongoing budget debacle.
Dunn fielded questions from a crowd of students and staff at SIUE on Thursday.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is proposing a 15 percent cut in higher education funding, with the legislature continually unable to actually pass a budget and money trickling out from time to time in stop-gap spending measures.
Simple math is an even bigger problem. The Carbondale campus, which had nearly 25,000 students in the 90s, now has fewer than 16,000. It has blown through more than $80 million in loans from its own cash reserves and those of the School of Medicine in Springfield, Dunn said.
The Edwardsville campus has grown to more than 14,000 and endured more than $12 million in budget cuts to stay financially grounded. Dunn told students and staff another $4 million in cuts were needed and that SIU-C would be borrowing millions of dollars from SIUE just to get through the rest of this fiscal year.
SIUE staffers have called the plan demoralizing.
“I don’t know that I’ve got a good way to argue otherwise, to say you shouldn’t feel that way or that’s not legitimate. I think it is. I get it,” Dunn said. “I will say this: it is a borrowing. It is an internal loan and it must be paid pack.”
It’s tough medicine for students to swallow, but senior Anna Buehlhorn compares it to her own savings account.
“It’s exactly for that, for the rainy day, so that way when something does happen then we’re not in a crisis and we have to shut down anything…I’m glad that we can still help somebody else in our community,” she said.
The internal loan will be well into the millions of dollars, though the exact amount remains unknown. The payback will be built into future SIUC budgets. The board of trustees is expected to approve the plan in its April 6 meeting at SIUC.
Dunn has written several columns about the financial issues facing the two campuses, which you can read at the SIU System website.