Thursday, May 5, 2016

More higher ed funding en route?

The State Senate passed a measure which would see all public and universities brought up to 60% of their 2015 budgets, doubling the amount of state funding approved in the recent stop-gap bill (for all save CSU, which is already at 60%). Here are stories from the Southern (i.e., Lee Newspapers) and the AP. Neither mentions the House (where Madigan reigns) but you'd think the large bipartisan vote in the Senate augurs well. A non-committal quote from Rauner in the AP story suggests he wouldn't veto the measure. It looks like it is funded largely by an accounting gimmick, but one one which was enough to give Senate Republicans cover (they have refused to back past measures by saying that "the money isn't there").

This would be good news, but even if it goes through, we're hardly out of the woods. We'd still be facing a 40% budget cut. And the cut was done in the most chaotic possible way, one that drained confidence in the financial status of Illinois public universities, thus leading many students to look elsewhere for higher education--or stop looking altogether.

At today's BOT meeting SIUE gave preliminary figures suggesting a 4% decline in enrollment there. SIUC administrators declined to provide any figures. Given their uncanny ability to cherry-pick promising seeming numbers even when the data looks bleak, this suggests a very substantial drop in enrollment is expected. More on rumors driving student flight after the break.

Rumors about MAP grants and program cancellation are rife on campus--and they aren't idle rumors, even if Provost Susan Ford tried to stamp out program cancellation concerns in an email sent out earlier today (pasted after the break). We will of course do all we can to ensure students get the programs they came for. But students won't (and shouldn't) come here for programs that are on their last legs. Faculty & advisors now are trying to guess whether their programs are likely to be on that list. Ford denies any programs are "slated for closure centrally," so instead speaks of departments closing programs. That's rather disingenuous--as if routine churn in programs phased out by their own departments were our main worry. 

"Sent from my iPhone" is a splendid indication of administrative desperation.

Dear Deans and Direct Reports,

Please remind your faculty, staff, and especially advisors that the current budget plans are as yet advisory.  NO PROGRAMS are slated for closure centrally at this time.

Certainly, as always, departments may choose to close programs - has happened in the past and will in the future.  ANY SUCH PLANS must include specific information to enrolled students about how they will be able to successfully complete their degrees. 

Some students as contacting press that their advisors have told them their programs are being closed and the students have no idea how to finish. I am not certain on the sources of these rumors and concerns, but please make sure all advisors (grad and undergrad) understand our legal responsibility to teach students to completion even should a department decide to close a program for some reason. 

Thank you. 

Sent from my iPhone

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