Students remain the focus despite cuts at SIU

By Julia Bruck - bioemail

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - The hole the State of Illinois finds itself in continues to have an impact on Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  That included worker layoffs and the reassignment of others. Still university leaders say while they had to make cuts, students have and remain the focus.

Lab finals, they are never something students enjoy. But it's a way to measure students learning. Something, the College of Science Dean, Jay Means says they tried to ensure doesn't change, despite a 4 percent budget cut to the college.

"Whose role would most impact the students in the classroom, if they were not there, that's what we ultimately had to do," Means said.

Means says the recent budget decisions come after more than a year of discussions. In the end, two people were laid off. Across campus more than a dozen staff members were also reassigned.

Means says there are several strategies to handle the staff loss. Some include bigger class size, while another could mean more work for those who kept their job.

"A professor that's teaching one or two sections of a course teaches three and not increase class size but increase the work load of a teacher slightly," Means said.

But the university's belt may not be tight enough. SIU's budget short fall is $11.5 million. Chancellor Rita Cheng says they have taken a multi-faceted approach to solve the problem and saved $7 million, so far.

"It's a combination of managing our payroll, not filling positions and possibility of having some furloughs when the fall semester begins," Cheng said.

Cheng says the furloughs could help make up the missing four and half million dollars. But if they are needed, she says, will depend on how many students show up for class in the coming weeks.

"Tuition dollars come in September, so by mid September we'll have the official enrollments, we'll know how much we've received in tuition dollars. That's kind of the final piece of the puzzle," Cheng explained.

In the last few weeks SIU received some $30 million from the state. Cheng says Illinois still owes another $25 million for last fiscal year. Those dollars are expected to arrive by December. Meanwhile, Cheng says this year's fiscal bill continues to climb.

Copyright 2010 KFVS. All rights reserved.