March 12, 2015 update
SIU System President Dr. Randy J. Dunn was joined by administrators and staff from SIU Carbondale, SIU Edwardsville, the SIU School of Medicine and the SIUE Pharmacy School in Springfield today. Appearing before Senate and House Appropriations Committees, the university system was given the opportunity “to tell its story” to legislators why the proposed funding cuts would be harmful to student affordability and access and to the thousands of individuals in central and southern Illinois who rely on its healthcare resources.
“We have a story to tell,” said President Dunn. “And it’s a story about the tremendous opportunities SIU, at all its locations, is contributing to student success and the wellbeing of our region. But we’re going to lessen the footprint of our service if the proposed funding reductions become reality.”
President Dunn, in both committee meetings asked legislators to continue the practice from the last two fiscal years of maintaining funding for SIU at a relative flat level. “Even with flat funding, we’re losing dollars” Dunn said. “But we have to preserve our primary function of core academic programs and critical student services. That’s why we’re in the business we’re in.”
When asked if the university could afford a state funding reduction, Dunn indicated it would cause the university to de-fund area and regional programs that rely on the university for support, like public radio stations, continuing education programs and business development programs.
Thanks to the SIU School of Medicine, the SIUE Pharmacy School, the SIU Dental School and the Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU, thousands of Illinoisans receive critical healthcare services. Dunn noted that proposed budget cuts would reduce the number of physicians, cancer researchers, and related clinical support staff. Additionally, reductions in community health and outreach programs that have broad reaching impact on the health and health care services in central and southern Illinois would be impacted. Eliminating state funding for the School of Pharmacy would greatly reduce community services provided to approximately 15,000 Illinois residents annually through patient care at hospitals and clinics.
Dunn also discussed the drastic regional economic impact a funding reduction would have. Besides laying off existing staff, the loss of funding translates into diminished economic return and tax revenues for local and state coffers. He noted economic impact studies at both universities point to the fact that a 31.5% funding cut would lead to an almost $500 million regional economic “hit” because of the dollars the university’s campuses generate from each dollar in state support it receives. Also, nearly $25 million, which is generated in state and local tax revenue, would be lost under the proposed budget.
SIU, with over 7,000 employees, is the largest public employer in downstate Illinois. Under the proposed budget, the university would have to lay off approximately 700 employees to maintain operations. “The primary focus of the university is to educate students, but we are an organization that relies on people to perform our function. I’m not sure where they would go, but I fear the individuals who lose their jobs could very well leave our state to find jobs elsewhere,” Dunn said.