$60 million in cuts worry SIU leaders, students - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

$60 million in cuts worry SIU leaders, students

Some in southern Illinois are worried about the implications Wednesday's budget address from Governor Bruce Rauner will have on Southern Illinois University.

SIU President Randy Dunn said he understands that some cuts will in fact be needed, but said what the governor proposed on Wednesday just seems like all too much, way too fast.

Since his election, perhaps the biggest question posed to Governor Rauner is what will be done about the state's budget.

"The Illinois budget is in a crisis condition." said SIU political science professor David Yepsen, "[The State] is in the worst state of any in the country, and it's going to take dramatic medicine to fix it."

On Wednesday, Rauner told the people of Illinois he intends that prescription to include $387 million taken away from higher education in the next fiscal year.

Which is more than a third of state funding as a whole.

"That poses the danger of providing all of that 'medicine' at one time, which can kill the patient." said SIU President Randy Dunn on Thursday.

He said if each individual student were to foot the bill on the proposed budget, the $60 million they would have to pay would divide into just over $2,000 per student.

Dunn said that magnitude of a change won't go unnoticed by students and community members tied to the university.

"These are things that touch the lives of southern Illinoisans almost every day, and if we don't have the ability to continue that work then there's no way that it won't be felt throughout the region," he said.

Many students are worried about what the cuts could mean for programs offered in the future.

"If they take away a lot of the programs here, It will just set everybody up for failure." said SIU student Jalen Little, "I don't think they're thinking long-term either. I think they're thinking in the now right now, which is bad."

President Dunn said research and extracurricular programs will see the biggest blow, specifically referencing the SIU "Touch of Nature" center, which is a nature research camp located a few miles south of SIU on the fringe of Giant City State Park.

Many say such blows will hurt the value of any Illinois college degree.

"In president Dunn's case, he's gonna have to be making a case for SIU and the rest of higher education across the state, because in fact; you can't grow the economy without educated workers." said Yepsen.

Yepsen went on to say the proposed budget might be the first step of a haggling process which could lead to a more attractive offer for educators by the end of the fiscal year in June.

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