Despite several state funding issues, University President Glenn Poshard said during Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting that the university remains financially viable.
He said recent credit reports from Moody’s and Standard & Poor were positive. Moody’s gave the university an A2 stable rating. Standard & Poor rated the university A+ stable.
“(The rating) is going to enable us to go out on the market and do very well,” Poshard said. “I think it’s significant that these two major rating agencies find us to be in good financial shape, as far as the way we have managed our funds.”
The ratings will save the university millions of dollars, Poshard said.
The state owes the Carbondale campus nearly $9.4 million for fiscal year 2012, Poshard said, and the law requires the state to cover the debt by year’s end. The state also owes SIU-Edwardsville about $85,000.
“We’re hopeful that we will see that $9.4 million by the end of December,” Poshard said.
He said the two totals are so different because SIUC receives a higher state fund appropriation.
“(The appropriation) is about 60/40,” Poshard said. “It would naturally follow that Edwardsville would be caught up first.”
The state owes SIUC $66 million and SIUE $31 million for the 2013 fiscal year, he said.
“That’s one of the things, in terms of cash flow, that we have to keep track of to keep our bills paid,” he said.
Poshard said tuition and fees also factor into the university’s financial status.
SIUC increased tuition and fees by 30.4% over the past five years, while SIUE raised tuition and fees 31.6% during the same time frame, Poshard said, and the increases are the lowest in the state.
Trustee Vice-Chair Ed Hightower thanked Chancellor Rita Cheng for her efforts to increase student enrollment.
“(Enrollment) is a challenge,” Hightower said. “It’s not something that can be turned around overnight.”
During the Academic Affairs committee meeting, Paul Sarvela, Vice-President of Academic Affairs, announced the Illinois Board of Higher Education will look into ways to change credit hours required for a university degree to lessen students’ and government debt.
Sarvela said Complete College America, a national non-profit organization dedicated to making degrees more accessible, would pursue hour caps for degrees. Programs would be required to reduce hour requirements to a maximum of 120 hours for bachelor’s degrees.
“It would benefit our programs to take a look at the curriculum and see if there are ways to address time to complete (degrees),” he said.
Sarvela said departments would have to figure out how to reduce hour requirements without affecting the education quality. He thanked the university’s musical theater department, which reduced credit hour requirements from 135 to 120. The department’s decision came after a majority faculty vote, he said.
“If you can reduce (credit hours), then you can reduce cost to Mom, Dad and the families,” he said.
Trustees also looked at SIUC student achievements and new campus research programs at Thursday’s meeting.
During her report, Cheng said a delegation, including herself, visited Cuba in September to investigate new education opportunities. She said the project resulted in a closer relationship with the University of Illinois.
“The people (in the delegation) are very interested in creating new educational opportunities for their students and for ours,” Cheng said.
Students will benefit from learning about Latin American and Caribbean history and politics, she said.
Cheng also congratulated Kathleen Campbell, a research scientist at the SIU School of Medicine who received FDA approval to test a drug created in her laboratory that can prevent and treat noise-induced hearing loss. The research is a breakthrough that could not only help millions of civilians, but also soldiers affected by war, she said.