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SIU president: $5.1 million funding shift from Carbondale to Edwardsville would reflect long-held operating policy

Carbondale Southern Illinoisan

Wednesday, April 11, 2018  |  Article  |  K. JANIS ESCH The Southern

Education--Higher (37)
CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University System President Randy Dunn says he stands by the recommendation to reallocate $5.1 million in state appropriation funding from SIU Carbondale to SIU Edwardsville because it reflects the system’s operating policy for the last 40 years.

This Thursday, the SIU Board of Trustees will consider a proposal to begin a phased adjustment of the state appropriation allocation to better reflect the enrollment levels at the two campuses.

During a meeting with The Southern Illinoisan’s editorial board Tuesday, Dunn said that the operating policy for the two campuses has dictated a 60/40 percent split in appropriation distribution between SIUC and SIUE since at least as far back as 1979.

Over the years, that split has gotten skewed by virtue of state cuts and loss of certain programs, Dunn said.

According to figures provided by Dunn, the appropriation distribution for Fiscal Year 2018 was $91,287,400 (63.9 percent) to SIUC and $51,565,000 (36.1 percent) to SIUE.

“In making the case for this to go forward for board consideration, and not pull it or table the item at this time, in my thought process … was the fact that the action that’s in front of the board is actually a lesser amount of money than it would take simply to come back to the 60/40, which had been the operating policy for the system going back we think now 40 years,” Dunn said.

To reflect a 60/40 percent split, the adjustment would be about $5.6 million.

He said the board will ultimately decide on the matter, but his role as system president “is to ensure a fidelity to the policy that the board has, and its implementation.”

The proposed $5.1 million comprises about 1.4 percent of the current operating budget for SIUC.

“At some point, as institutions come together in a system, there has to be a sense that all of the partners in the system are going to be treated equitably, that there’s an honest brokering from the system that takes place and a fair shake for the operation of each of the underlying campuses,” Dunn said.

He said that although there are differences between the campuses, particularly in research missions, they are looking more and more like equals.

“If there’s a sense that that isn’t being fulfilled by a system, then it’s probably not surprising that we’re hearing the consternation of SIUE that we are at this point … and I have to be fair to say I understand that frustration,” Dunn said.

Dunn said that the early-phase, $5.1 million adjustment would not be the first step that leads to the reorganization of the system.

“I take the exact opposite view. If this item, based upon the enrollment, doesn’t eventually move forward … I think that calls into question the future of the system and its credibility and legitimacy for those in the Metro East, who I might suggest are watching this just as closely as Carbondale-area residents. And that’s what concerns me about this having the potential of having to wait until the full-blown study is done,” Dunn said.

The proposal calls on Dunn to hire an external consultant to develop a new funding formula. SIU is currently trying to find a consulting firm to take on the project.

Dunn said there’s a narrative in the Carbondale community that he doesn’t care about protecting SIUC, and he called it “the farthest thing from the truth.”

“I want every campus to be successful, to move forward, to reach its highest potential with good leadership being provided at the campus level with the involvement of all the constituencies, all the things that you see in a campus that has great organizational health — I want that for every campus, including Carbondale,” Dunn said. “I spent nearly a decade here as a professor, a faculty member; my home is here, and we made that decision consciously. … I’m all in for Carbondale’s success, but in looking at this, I’m also system president.”

The Board of Trustees has the authority to adjust the reallocation at the board table. It will discuss the matter during Wednesday’s work session and come to a vote at Thursday’s full meeting.