WSIU InFocus: SIU Trustees Approve SIUE-to-SIUC Lending

May 11, 2017

SIU Carbondale will get a little financial breathing room, thanks to a short-term loan from its sister campus in Edwardsville.

The borrowing plan allows SIUC to use up to $35 million in unrestricted funds from SIUE - a move leaders call "transferring from one savings account to another."
 

"I have heard over and over again that they perceive the Carbondale campus has not acknowledged their financial crisis." ~Kirt Ormesher

But it's not without opposition. Many on the Edwardsville campus say Carbondale hasn't done enough to cut its spending. SIUE Staff Senate President Kirt Ormesher says his constituents have felt enough pain, and want to make sure it's not for someone else's benefit.

"I don't believe the staff on the Edwardsville hates Carbondale. I doubt they even dislike Carbondale. But I have heard over and over again that they perceive the Carbondale campus has not acknowledged their financial crisis, and has yet to take the same painful actions that the Edwardsville campus did to match expenditures with the reduction of income from the state of Illinois."

SIUC has used up its own unrestricted reserve funds, and dipped into the School of Medicine's funds, as well. At a meeting in Carbondale last month, Edwardsville faculty and staff members detailed cuts on their campus - including the loss of phones in their offices, reductions in class offerings, and more. They say Carbondale needs to demonstrate the same reductions.

But SIUC leaders, like Faculty Association President David Johnson, says those cuts have been made - and are still on the horizon.

"I keep hearing that SIUC is not cutting enough. But SIUC will be cutting $51 from our state budget - a cut that's about 25% of our 2015 total. SIUE will cut a total of $16 million. A sizeable cut, but that's about 11% of your 2015 state budget. Your chancellor has announced that there will be no layoffs or furloughs at SIUE. At Carbondale, we've already had layoffs and there will be dozens - if not hundreds - more this summer. So yes, Carbondale is cutting."

"In order for us to survive - and ultimately thrive - in a very difficult time, we have to survive as a system." ~Trustee Amy Sholar

Trustee Amy Sholar - who is the parent of an SIU Edwardsville student - says it's not about pitting one campus against another.

"All of us understand these concerns and limitations. All of the concerns voice by everyone, we all recognize that. But, in order for us to survive - and ultimately thrive - in a very difficult time, we have to survive as a system. And with these additional terms, I think that we can do that as a system."

A procedural move last month tabled the borrowing plan, forcing the need for a special board meeting. Trustee Chair Randal Thomas says that also gave administrators like SIU President Randy Dunn and Vice President Duane Stucky, as well as the Board a chance to better explain the borrowing proposal, and make sure it had the details necessary to address many of the concerns.

"It actually gave us some time for a pause, and a reset, and to take that input and provide some answers about what's a loan look like, and what are the terms of the loan? In order to have a loan, you have to have terms. To Dr. Stucky's team's credit, they worked long and hard at coming up with the reality of the picture of what will be involved with transferring funds from Edwardsville to Carbondale."

The terms of the loan include a requirement that SIUC come up with a detailed financial plan by the Board's July meeting. They also require Edwardsville to be on top of the list when it comes to repayment. Still, SIUE Associate Professor Mary Sue Love says there are questions that must be answered.

"What will you say to our students? It's their fees, according to Dr. Pembrook, that will be going to Carbondale as a loan. What will you say to their parents? What will you say to our community about how you're going to safeguard us?"

"It is one system budget. It is one system audit, it is one system financial accounting system. It is a system budget that is the purview of the board's." ~SIU President Randy Dunn

President Randy Dunn says those concerns must be addressed, but says overall, the borrowing is a must.

"It is one system budget. It is one system audit, it is one system financial accounting system. It is a system budget that is the purview of the board's. But, to their credit - and Dr. Stucky and I had great discussions on this, sought outside advice - in the interest of transparency and being clear on what was being intended, because it was new ground for the system, and sharing that with the Chair as he transmitted to other trustees, it is the right thing to do."

Dunn says this is a temporary measure - one to help Carbondale weather a financial storm that's been pounding higher education for nearly two years in Illinois. He says the state's legislature and the governor must come together soon in order to keep public colleges and universities afloat.

"The state university system is going to need to have some state cash provided to it to keep a lot of the universities viable heading through the summer and into the fall. So, whatever happens as this plays out there's going to have to be some way to address the cash flow needs of many of our state universities. SIU's included in that."

Earlier this spring, Dunn and interim SIUC Chancellor Brad Colwell outlined a plan to cut $30 million from the Carbondale campus. The details of those reductions are still being hashed out.