Student Health Center faces some immunity in budget crisis

By Cory Ray, @coryray_DE

In a budget cut sickness that affects all of SIUC campus, services at the Student Health Center may only be facing a few symptoms.

Jim Hunsaker, associate director of the Student Health Center, said the only cut — $72,000 — will come from the Counseling Center.

Because the Counseling Center is state-funded, Hunsaker said the $8.5 million in revenue from student fees the Health Center receives will remain unchanged.


The $72,000 cut is roughly equal to the salary of one psychologist. Although no staff members will be cut, the Health Center is will use student fees and leave unfilled staff positions vacant to cover the cost of running the Counseling Center.

The Counseling Center’s cut is recurring, so it will continue to receive a 10 percent cut each year. Despite this, Hunsaker does not expect the cost of student fees to rise. In fact, he said fees have only increased once in the last few years to accommodate for medical cost inflation.

Students are charged $219 per semester in fees that help fund the Health Center. 

Hunsaker also does not expect the $6 student visit fee to increase.

“For the forseeable future, we don’t see those [numbers] changing,” Hunsaker said. “We’re not going to pass this cost onto our students.”

Hunsaker said unfilled staff positions will be used to combat costs instead of cutting staff members. Additionally, some technological upgrades will be postponed.

“We’ve anticipated these cuts coming,” Hunsaker said. “We’ve really tightened our belt on expenses other than salary … The counseling services are vital to our students, and there’s absolutely no way we could cut even one staff member and not have the students feel that.”


Hunsaker said maintaining staff is important so students don’t have to wait for long periods of time to see counselors.

Previously, SIU System President Randy Dunn said graduate students could receive some of the hardest hits from the budget cuts.

A reduction of graduate assistantships at the Health Center because of the budget has not been reported. Hunsaker said the center has lost only one graduate assistant because the Wellness Center, which employed the student, is short on staff that supervises and trains graduate assistants.

On average, Hunsaker said the Health Center employs four graduate assistants at a time.

Jaime Clark, director of the Counseling Center, said it employs six full-time equivalent psychologists and four master’s level counselors. It also includes training programs such as internships and practicums.

As a further measurement of state cuts, the Illinois Department of Central Management Services recently stated university employees may soon have to pay out of pocket for health services. University Spokesperson Rae Goldsmith said this will not affect student services at the Health Center.

Hunsaker said the state of Illinois is 13 months behind on paying claims to providers, and the recent Central Management Services statement is an extension of what providers are already experiencing.

“I see us absorbing all of these things,” Hunsaker said. “Working hard with less is generally what we’ve been doing the last few years anyway.”

Cory Ray can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @coryray_DE