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SIUE to lend millions to sister campus in Carbondale

SIU System president Randy Dunn
File photo | Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio
Southern Illinois University System president Randy Dunn

Updated May 11 with approval — The trustees of Southern Illinois University have approved a loan of up to $35 million from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville to support its Carbondale campus.

The board of the university system approved the plan Wednesday after delaying a vote last month.

Original story from March 29: Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn said Wednesday that the state's ongoing budget crisis is forcing him to propose cutting at least $30 million from the Carbondale campus, $4 million from the Edwardsville campus and $2.2 million from the School of Medicine.

In an online post, Dunn said his proposed cuts should be finalized no later than July 1 and take effect as soon as possible. The actions are necessary, he said, because the schools cannot "reasonably assume state money will be forthcoming anytime soon."  

Dunn also is seeking authorization to loan "certain unrestricted funds" from the Edwardsville campus, which he described as reserves, to the Carbondale campus. 

SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook told St. Louis Public Radio that it's more of a short-term loan of a few million dollars to come from "self-supporting activities" like athletics, student fees, IT and a dental clinic. The school will also defer maintenance. 

"The key to this is if the state comes through with funding, I think I can talk to people and say you really won’t see a negative impact. It is an accounting procedure, it’s kind of like a rainy-day fund that people have, you move money and then when the rainy day passes, you move money back," Pembrook added.

He also sent a letter to staff and students Wednesday, telling them SIUE is in good enough financial shape that it will not have to cut academic programs or furlough staff, only trim their budget as outlined by Dunn.

Illinois has been without a state budget for nearly two years, which has affected everything from higher education to social services. Lawmakers earlier this month canceled a vote on a so-called "grand bargain" meant to break the stalemate.

Dunn said in his post that the system's campuses "must also plan for potential additional reductions, which could become necessary in the event there is NO state funding whatsoever through the Fall 2017 semester."

Illinois' Secretary of Education, Beth Purvis, said in a statement: "Higher education has been negatively impacted by the General Assembly’s failure to pass a balanced budget, and this decision underscores the importance and urgent need for the Senate to reach a bipartisan compromise that is good for students, job creators and taxpayers."

The Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses already have seen budget cuts due to the lack of a state budget and declining enrollment.

Dunn also said he will ask the school's board of trustees to consider declaring a short-term financial emergency for the Carbondale campus, while he suggests for redesigning SIUE's courses to be more efficient and delaying the school's construction and renovation projects.

Camille Phillips contributed to this report.

Follow Erica on Twitter: @ehunzinger

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