I promised in my post yesterday to talk a little about the reports Glenn Poshard and Rita Cheng gave to the Board today. I was taking notes on my phone and I’m not the fastest two-thumb typist, so you’ll have to forgive any errors or things I missed.
President Poshard reported mainly on the state of the budget and legislative actions taken in Springfield, including steep cuts to K-12 education and other agencies. There were cuts planned to higher education and the potential of further reductions in the future. At the moment, there are no current grant cuts being made. Overall the appropriations levels are lower as the legislature is looking for money to pay bills; Poshard reported that at current levels about 6-8 million of the state’s debt will be paid off next year. The cash flow situation of the university is of concern, however, as the state owes 45% of its appropriation to SIU (last year at this time, they only owed 35%). He says they plan to continue to monitor the situation, work with the comptroller to ensure SIU can make payroll. Apparently, 2.2 million (or a 1.6% reduction) was cut from state funding for SIU and the Monetary Award Program (MAP) was cut, reducing the state aid to students (which I imagine may hurt both enrollment and retention, given the demographics of our students here).
Much of Chancellor’s Cheng’s report reflected things she has already said earlier this week in her WSIU Morning Conversation interview, so if you heard that, you probably already know what’s coming. She reported an enrollment increase for summer and optimism about enrollment for fall. Freshmen applications are up, transfer student applications are up, and SIUC is anticipating an increase in tuition and fee revenue. She has instituted a “2.5 percent permanent” cut across the university and furloughs were a “one time critical savings” measure. She anticipates that the SIUC budget will be balanced by the end of FY12. The administration is continuing to work on the new branding, including new publications for prospective students and websites, and expects the new designs to be unveiled next month. Apparently, there were seven employees trained for “customer service” who are now getting ready to train others across the university (though she never explained the purpose of this “customer service” training — who are the customers being served? Students? Alumni? Parents? Faculty?) She also gave a quick rundown of the upcoming building projects, such as the tearing down the parking garage near Faner, expansion of parking lots, some heating and air condition upgrades in the Engineering building and Faner, and technology upgrades. Finally, she reported that grant funding is up at 68.3 million.
Basically, the tone of both reports seemed to be that, despite the lack of state funding, the university is on its way to turning around the financial situation.
This is, of course, especially ironic given that there has always been questions about exactly how dire that financial situation really is. However, the really interesting statement about the budget wasn’t made by either Poshard or Cheng, but rather by Roger Herrin, the chair of the Board of Trustees. When the meeting started, he had a few opening remarks — including making “greater financial transparency” a goal of the Board.