State lawmakers say hours of testimony Monday on the SIU Carbondale campus will help as the group shapes the future of higher education funding in Illinois.
The House Higher Education Committee held a special hearing to discuss SIU's funding - something Chair Chris Welch says was jeopardized by years of declining state support along with the Illinois' budget impasse.
"Two and a half years without a budget really, really hurt our higher education system. I think we're going to be digging out of this hole for many years to come."
Students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community leaders spoke to lawmakers about how SIU - and its Carbondale campus in particular - affect the region's economy and opportunity. Interim President Kevin Dorsey says SIU plays a critical role.
"Our universities are educational, economic, and healthcare drivers in the region. And we need to be sure they have the resources needed to do their jobs."
State Representative Terri Bryant pointed to declines in state support, along with Illinois' budget impasse, as reasons for some of the issues facing SIU and other state universities.
"We became complacent as a country, but certainly as a state, in how important higher education is. And we became complacent as legislators in funding higher education."
Faculty, staff, students, administrators, and community leaders told lawmakers the university is still struggling to provide services and support - and some programs have not returned because of the cuts.
Representative Natalie Phelps Finnie joined others in saying the state can't cut its way out of its budget problems.
"It's a lack of overall funds. The two campuses should not be left to fight for the scraps that are left over. It's purely lack of funding, lack of revenue."
The committee is meeting both in Carbondale and Edwardsville this week to further explore the issues that led to legislation that proposed a split of the two campuses, among other ideas.
They meet at SIUE Tuesday.