New bills with the potential to greatly affect SIUE and the SIU System as a whole have been introduced into the Illinois House of Representatives by Metro-East lawmakers. 

The bills come on the heels of last week’s Board of Trustees meeting, at which the BOT voted 4-3, with one abstention, to deny a reallocation of $5.125 million of the state’s funding to the SIU System from Carbondale to SIUE. 

Historically, SIUE has received around 36 percent of the funding from the state, which matched its percentage of total enrollment in the SIU System, but over the last 18 years SIUE’s enrollment has risen while SIUC’s has fallen, giving both universities about 50 percent of the system’s enrollment.

State Rep. Katie Stuart, a former instructor in SIUE’s Department of Mathematics & Statistics, said that if the BOT had passed the proposed funding shift, these bills might not have even been brought to the House.

“That would have shown us that the board is paying attention to current enrollment trends going on at the university and we would have accepted the board’s decision on that,” Stuart said. 

In an interview Friday, SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook also said he thought the “$5 million was a reasonable adjustment.”

The bills, HB 5860, HB 5859 and HB 5861, have all been added as amendments to other bills in the house (HB 1293, HB 1291 and HB 1292, respectively) that are on second readings in the House. All three amendments have replaced the bills they were added onto, effectively becoming the bill in total.

The most drastic of the bills, HB 1292, sponsored  by State Rep. Jay Hoffman, would split the SIU System in two. This bill was referenced by SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook in his campus-wide email in response to the Board of Trustee’s decision last Thursday. 

If the bill passes in its current form, SIUE would retain control of the Edwardsville campus, the School of Pharmacy, the East St. Louis Center and the School of Dental Medicine. Additionally, the School of Medicine in Springfield, which has traditionally been aligned with the Carbondale campus, would transfer over to SIUE. 

SIUC would retain control of the Carbondale campus as well as the School of Law, which is located in Carbondale. 

As a part of the SIU System Connection, SIU System President Randy Dunn and Board of Trustees Chair Amy Sholar released a joint statement about the bill and other past attempts in to split the two universities.

The statement offered both positives and negatives in the event of a separation of the universities, but said that the Board of Trustees had not decided an official position yet.

Pembrook said in the event of the system’s dissolution, he thinks SIUC’s future plans for enrollment and cost savings will help them stabilize the university. 

“I think that [SIUC is] planning, hoping that by the time they get to fall of 19 that they will have stabilized some with the new model, and I think they hope the 18/19 recruiting cycle for fall of 19 will go well for them, so we wish them well in that,” Pembrook said.

HB 1294, created by Stuart, says as of July 1, when “money appropriated to the [SIU System Board of Trustees] by the General Assembly is allocated for the Carbondale campus, an equal amount must be allocated by the Board for the Edwardsville campus.”

“They’ve been underfunding the Edwardsville campus for a long time,” Stuart said.

For comparison, if that bill affected Fiscal Year 2018’s funding, SIUE and SIUC would each receive $71.426 million, which would have been a $19.861 million loss to the Carbondale campus’ already financially struggling budget.

Stuart said her bill was directly related to the Board of Trustees “failing to do what we felt was a reasonable measure.”

HB 1293, originally introduced by State Rep. Monica Bristow, calls for the restructuring of the SIU System Board of Trustees. 

All current BOT members’ terms would end, effective immediately upon passing of the bill, and seven new members would be chosen. SIUE and SIUC would both have three members on the board who had graduated from each of the university, and one member would have graduated from neither. 

Bristow’s bill also changes how student trustee’s voting rights work. Instead of swapping voting powers between the student trustees of each university every year, neither university’s student representative would have a vote.

The three bills are slated to be covered at the next House Higher Education Committee  meeting at 3 p.m. on Thursday in the Illinois State Capitol Building.

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