Daily Egyptian

Legislation would allow SIU to sell real estate for scholarships

By Bill Lukitsch, @Bill_LukitschDE

University officials want to lease or sell land owned by SIU for future student aid scholarships.

Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, introduced legislation in the Illinois Senate last week that would allow the university to sell surplus property and deposit the profits in a scholarship fund for student aid. It effectively bypasses the State Property Control Act, which would otherwise mandate the public university turn over any surplus property to the state. 

The parcels of land are of varying acreage and span across the southern Illinois region. Most of the properties under consideration have been owned by the university “a number of years” and are either unused or rarely used for research purposes, said Kevin Bame, SIU’s vice chancellor for administration and finance.

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“The administration will be evaluating how we use the property and if the legislation is passed, we will look at getting an appraisal on that property to find out what the fair market value is,” Bame said. 

Bame could not detail the approximate value of the land SIU is considering selling because all of it is tax-exempt and has not been appraised in years. Some of the properties were purchased, but a majority were acquired through estates, he said.

How the scholarship aid would be disbursed to students is also unclear as the legislation is still in its beginning stages. If Senate Bill 2790 passes the Democratic-led General Assembly and is signed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, the university would take the next logical steps to review which parcels should be liquidated and have the land appraised, Bame said.

Any recommendations by the university must be approved by the SIU Board of Trustees and it is too early to tell whether the university would prefer to lease or sell the land for immediate profits.

“I think it might be in the interest of the university to maximize cash flow in the near-term than it would be to lease it on a long term, but it depends on the type of property we’re looking at,” Bame said.

Bame said the legislative move is not a response to the Illinois budget impasse, but rather the university’s “desire to have scholarship funds available to [its] students.”

“If we can convert the value of the land into a scholarship fund, I think that would be the most advantageous position for the university to be in,” Bame said. “It’s a win-win in my eyes.”

Bill Lukitsch can be reached at [email protected] or (618)-536-3329.

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