Ahead of Special Trustees Meeting, A Look Back at Contentious Allocation Question

May 29, 2018

When SIU Trustees meet in Special Session Wednesday, their agenda doesn't include one of the biggest issues currently facing the system: What to do about funding allocations between the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses.

The issue first got public discussion back in March, as the SIU Board of Trustees held a retreat at SIUC's Touch of Nature. It's now included in proposed legislation in Springfield.

SIU Edwardsville Provost Denise Cobb brought the matter to the March 9th meeting. She pointed to growth at SIUE, particularly in enrollment, as well as a desire to be on equal footing with the Carbondale campus.

“We’re asking the Board to reconsider the allocation model, because we believe it’s important to the System, and to our campus. And not just for symbolic reasons. There are symbolic reasons, I think we’d like to be viewed as a full partner in this system, and as a contributor to this system in a way that is reflected in an allocation model.”

Discussion of enrollment fell to questions about how student costs are calculated, particularly when it comes to research-intensive programs or those that have high costs like Aviation or Engineering. SIU Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said without careful consideration, there can be unintended consequences.

“When you go to a fixed model like this, it doesn’t take into account the cost of instruction associated with different majors. At that kind of level, it becomes very dangerous. You end up providing an economic advantage to low-cost, low-delivery programs, which may not be the intention of where you want your institution to go.”

Montemagno also pointed to the heavy costs that come with an older campus. He says those costs cannot be ignored.

“We have over $740 million in deferred maintenance in Carbondale, and I believe the deferred maintenance at Edwardsville is a little over $100 million. The cost of maintaining and running the infrastructure is dramatically different. We are a 150 year old campus, with a lot more costs associated with operation.”

But when it comes to costs, Provost Cobb highlighted Edwardsville's work over the past several years to streamline and cut back. She said the distribution of funding must be addressed.

“If we want to have return on investment, if we want to grow and thrive, if we’d like to move with agility, Edwardsville is at a point where we produce a credit hour more efficiently than any other Illinois public, and have a long history of doing so. The budget crisis that we’ve had has had real implications on our campus, just as it has in Carbondale.”

No action was taken on the reallocation issue in March. Trustee Joel Sambursky pointed out he wanted more information before he could make a decision on what to do.

“It would be helpful to understand – what is the cost difference? And why does that exist? And what can we do go be more efficient in Edwardsville, and in Carbondale, and at the School of Medicine? I think that makes sense for us to understand, and I don’t know that we’ve got an accurate understanding or picture.”

Information was provided to Trustees at their next meeting in May - when a proposal to reallocate more than $5 million from Carbondale to Edwardsville failed to get enough votes to pass.

Since that time, a package of legislation has been introduced in Springfield that could split the campuses, reconstitute the Board of Trustees, or reallocate funding. One resolution calls for the Illinois Board of Higher Education to study the funding and other issues.

You can hear audio from the March 9 retreat below:

Additional audio from the meeting is here: