SIU BOT freezes tuition and fees, hears  public comments on funding allocation

Kasey Hohlt, Graduate Assistant for CSDI andEd Hightower, Vice Chair reminisce during the break between speakers.

The SIU Board of Trustees approved a number of measures at their first meetings of the year and heard public comments from members of the SIUE community on the current funding allocation.

At the Board of Trustees’ meeting on Feb. 12, the board approved a proposal to freeze tuition and fees across all SIU-system campuses. According to Board Chair Phil Gilbert, the decision to freeze tuition and fees was aimed at attracting more students to both campuses and Illinois as a whole. 

“When Governor Pritzker visited both the Carbondale campus to announce the release of the funds for the communication building and the Edwardsville campus to announce the release of the funds for the health science building, Governor Pritzker consistently emphasized affordability as the key to attracting more students to Illinois public universities,” Gilbert said during the public portion of the executive meeting on Feb. 11.

At SIUE, all new, full-time undergraduate students will pay $9,123 in tuition per semester for 15 credit hours, and all domestic graduate students will be charged $8,155.20 per semester for 12 credit hours. 

Tuition will also stay the same at the School of Dental Medicine and the School of Pharmacy. Dental medicine students will pay an annual tuition of $29,998, and pharmacy students will pay an annual tuition of $24,096.

All students at the undergraduate, graduate or professional level will continue to pay a general student fee of $103.20 per credit hour for the 2020-21 academic year.

At both Wednesday and Thursday’s meetings, the Board heard public comments from SIUE faculty and staff about the current SIU-system funding allocation. Kim Archer, a professor in the Department of Music, spoke at Wednesday’s meeting about how long the current allocation has been in place and argued for this issue to be readdressed.

“I just celebrated my 47th birthday, and I say that because about the time that I was born, your predecessors on this board implemented a funding allocation between Edwardsville and Carbondale,” Archer said. “That was 1975, 45 years ago.”

Mark Poepsel, Faculty Association president and professor in the Department of Mass Communications, spoke at both meetings and made a similar argument to Archer’s. According to Poepsel, the board should reconsider the current funding allocation and allocate all new state funds to SIUE in the meantime.

“Our students, in an essence, are subsidizing the status quo at Carbondale, and we believe at the SIUE campus that this should end now,” Poepsel said on Thursday. “As long as Carbondale receives nearly a two-to-one split of state funding, we at Edwardsville would argue that we should have all new monies from the state earmarked to help our campus survive and thrive.” 

Members of the board did not respond publicly to comments made by the SIUE faculty and staff members. However, in a press conference following Thursday’s meeting, Vice Chair Ed Hightower said splitting the system or giving all new funding to SIUE were not options being considered.

“We said up front coming back on the board that this is going to be a system process,” Hightower said. “The notion that there’s going to be a split of the two campuses is not something that we’re interested in or entertaining, and we made that very clear coming back on this trustee board. We said that we were going to be transparent and there was going to be a fairness about how we do business.”

At Thursday’s meeting, the board approved contracts totaling more than $7.4 million dollars toward the School of Dental Medicine’s Advanced Care Clinic on the Alton campus.

The new clinic will provide a wider range of services for patients, especially children being treated at the clinic. Most notably, the new clinic will provide general anesthesia capabilities, allowing the clinic to serve more patients and give the school’s students experience in more areas of dental medicine.

With new system president Daniel Mahony officially stepping into the position on March 1, Mahony has established seven working groups to help him with the transition. According to SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook, both campuses are represented in each working group.

“He charged them just in the last week or two, the process is getting started, so he’s phoned in with them [and] conferenced called,” Pembrook said. “There’s co-chairs, so there’s representation from both campuses, and on average about three or four committee members from each campus.”

Working groups focus on a variety of topics, including enrollment and community partnerships, and report their findings to Mahony.

“One of the things I found very interesting and I appreciated is that rather than having each group start from square one, he asked for what he called reading materials, which is what have the campuses done in all of those areas,” Pembrook said. 

A search is also currently underway to fill the position of SIU-system Vice President for Academic Affairs. The screening committee will be chaired by Jim Allen, who currently fills the position. The position is also being given a new name — the Vice President for Academic Innovation, Planning and Partnerships.

The next Board of Trustees meeting will be held on Thursday, April 30 on the Carbondale campus. The Board can be contacted by emailing Executive Secretary of the Board Misty Whittington at mistyw@siu.edu.

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