Daily Egyptian

President Dunn: The university will be operational in spring

By Bill Lukitsch, @Bill_LukitschDE

The university will continue to fund MAP grants through spring in anticipation of reimbursement from the state once a budget is passed.

SIU President Randy Dunn told students the entire SIU system will be fully operational through the next semester despite the absence of state appropriations during the State of the Student Address on Wednesday in Guyon Auditorium. This fall, the university funded MAP grants to meet the financial needs of 4,766 eligible undergraduate students until the state’s budget impasse is over. 

“We will do what we’ve done through the fall semester and continue to carry that support into the spring,” Dunn told attendees, adding that the university does not want to lose students simply because “the state hasn’t done its job.”

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Without the expected $200 million in state appropriations, Dunn said the university has little wiggle room with respect to maintaining operations.

“We’re a state university,” Dunn said. “That means, by virtue of our operating model, we need some state support to do our work.”

Interim Chancellor William Bradley Colwell said funding the grants was the right thing to do and the university cannot afford to lose students who depend on state aid. 

But how the grants will be funded remains in question.

“Our financial aid is generous to the point that we’ve overspent,” Colwell said in regard to MAP grants and graduate assistantships at SIUC. “Honestly, after looking at all of the finances: We’ve given what our financial means can afford to give.”

Illinois has disinvested higher education over the last 12 years, and with the current financial straits Illinois is in, Colwell said cuts are just a matter of when and how much. MAP funding in 2002 fully covered the costs of attending college for low-income students in Illinois. Since 2009, the grant covers roughly 35 percent of the average cost of tuition and fees and is received by 37 percent of eligible students.

Although the university has prepared for an 8.75 percent cut in state appropriations for fiscal year 2015, Colwell said inaction by state politicians has left the university’s financial future in uncertainty. Even with the preventative cuts that have been made, Colwell said he is not certain exactly how the university will pay for MAP funding. 

“It could very easily be that we don’t see state money till the end of April [or] May,” Colwell said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan are scheduled to meet in November to discuss the budget face-to-face for the first time in months, but state leaders don’t expect the impasse to end any time soon.

“We’ll figure it out and we’ll make this work for students, but the state’s not making it easy,” Colwell said. 

Bill Lukitsch can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @Bill_LukitschDE.

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