Southern Illinois University | St. Louis Public Radio

Southern Illinois University

SIU System president Randy Dunn
File photo | Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated May 11 with approval — The trustees of Southern Illinois University have approved a loan of up to $35 million from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville to support its Carbondale campus.

The board of the university system approved the plan Wednesday after delaying a vote last month.

Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville

A long, slow decline in both state funding and enrollment has public colleges in Illinois cutting staff and increasing tuition. In the face of a financial shortfall, it would seem campuses would seek out every dollar available.

But Western Illinois University and Southern Illinois University are trying a different tactic. They’re eliminating higher out-of-state tuition rates so any undergrad from any state will pay what used to be the lower in-state tuition.

Tayler Leverenz, 19, is from Illinois, but is taking advantage of the University of Missouri-St. Louis' offering of in-state tuition for Illinois residents.
Ryan Delaney / St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a tug-of-war happening across the Mississippi River for students in the St. Louis region, with some colleges erasing the borders of in-state tuition prices to help navigate tough financial times.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale was the vanguard in the area, offering Missouri students a reduced price in 2009, a move that’s resulted in 95 more students from west of the Mississippi in the last five years. And the University of Missouri-St. Louis, which for five years has offered in-state tuition for Metro East residents, is expanding that benefit to all Illinois residents.

But the big winners in all of this are the students, who now have more colleges to choose from and at more affordable prices.

SIU System president Randy Dunn
File photo | Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

Southern Illinois University System president Randy Dunn has now completed his first year in that role. As part of the “St. Louis on the Air” series on regional colleges and universities, host Don Marsh talked with Dunn on Monday about his first year as president and the challenges faced by institutions of higher learning.

Patients don't normally embrace their dentists after getting a tooth pulled, and dentists rarely reward patients with a crisp $5 bill. But this was no ordinary day in Gallatin County, population about 6,500, deep in the hills of southern Illinois on the banks of the Ohio.

A tyke with a toothache so painful he could not focus on learning became the first customer for a dental clinic debuting in a school-based health complex. After the dentist performed the extraction, the boy hugged him, a clinic worker recalls.

Illinoisans have experienced a governmental tsunami without fully realizing it.

The toll mounts daily, and so do the odds against robust recovery. It's not just the smothering deficit. It's not just the lack of political will to confront and correct it. It's also the insidious mangling of a management structure crucial to the effective expenditure of our tax dollars.