SIU president calls senate budget plan "still viable" - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

SIU president calls senate budget plan "still viable"

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CARBONDALE -- Ahead of Governor Bruce Rauner's annual budget address in Springfield Wednesday, SIU President Dunn remains hopeful about a grand bargain budget deal.

"It's as close as we've been to any kind of viable budget proposal since this impasse started," Dunn said.

Universities and community colleges in southern Illinois have struggled with unreliable state funding for two years. 

Dunn said he wants to hear about Rauner's plan to invest in research at universities. SIU received a direct mention from Rauner during his state of the state address back in January.

As enrollment continues to decline at the university, Dunn seeks some indication of hope.

"The sense exists, I think in a very strong way, that something needs to happen and needs to happen soon to right the ship of the state, if you will, and have us moving forward," Dunn said.

In recent weeks, state senators have forged a grand bargain budget plan that consists of 13 different bills. Dunn said that plan includes some good things and some bad things for higher education.

Should it pass, he expects universities will have to make bigger contributions to their employees pensions, but he remains confident Rauner plans to invest more in higher education.

"It's as close as we've been to any kind of viable budget proposal since this impasse started," Dunn said.

SIU has seen record drops in enrollment over the last two years, something Dunn blames in part on the impasse. He said the university will focus more on recruiting new students.

He wants to keep graduate and Ph.D. programs in tact, but said the university will take a closer look at undergraduate programs and focus on those that garner significant student interest.

"Enrollment is job one for SIUC. There's no doubt about it now whether we go back to the numbers we saw at our height, I don't foresee that happening," Dunn said.

No matter what change is on the way, Dunn emphasizes the important role reliable state funding plays in getting and keeping students.

Dunn says he expects the university to invest heavily in applied science degree programs like advanced manufacturing.

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