Declining enrollment at SIU raises concerns - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Declining enrollment at SIU raises concerns

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CARBONDALE -- Enrollment numbers at Southern Illinois University are down again, as the school has lost nearly a thousand students since last spring.

University administrators say they plan to focus more on recruitment and retention. In the meantime, students worry about safety and grant funding.

School leaders say they have plans to address those, but the lack of a state budget has their hands tied.

"They could easily affect other students by not providing grants because more grants means more students," said student Matt Gross.

The state's failure to provide financial help to students affects Carbondale, which relies on SIU as a huge economic engine, pumping money into area businesses.

This is the reason SIU has fronted the aid money so far.

"It's past due. We are really right now borrowing from everything we have internally, from our reserves to moving money around to make sure we're here to do what we're supposed to do," said SIU spokesperson Rae Goldsmith.

Goldsmith blames the lack of budget for the university losing nearly a thousand students since last spring.

"We have to think that eventually the issues preventing the budget from being resolved will get resolved, and that higher educations will be part of the solution not the problem," added Goldsmith.

Governor Rauner has insisted universities cut what he calls "bloated" budgets.

"The longer the state goes without a budget could result in fewer and fewer students walking SIU's campus," added Goldsmith.

The biggest hit to the university came in having to hold off on posting graduate assistant ships, resulting in the loss of 420 graduate students since last spring.

"The lesson we learned is we can't afford, even though we are in the same place we were last year, to put off that decision," added Goldsmith.

Gross hopes an improving athletic program will help boost enrollment at SIU and do what the budget hasn't.

"I've went to Saluki games since 2003 so I'm a saluki for life," added Gross.

The budget impasse has forced Eastern Illinois University to lay off more than one hundred employees, and Western Illinois University has fired 30 employees.

Goldsmith says SIU hasn't arrived at that point yet, but says the university expects to make new decisions to counter the lack of state money in the coming weeks.

Goldsmith says those decisions could leave the university "looking a little different."

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