EDWARDSVILLE — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker released the first 10% of $105 million in funding for a new health sciences building on the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus Thursday.
The initial $10.5 million pays for the planning and design of the new building, which will house nursing, pharmacy, public health, social work and the many other health science programs at the university.
“SIUE has made a name for itself in the health sciences programs,” Pritzker said at the campus. “This facility will build on how those programs are integrated together, allowing students and professors to learn across disciplines.”
Collaboration is at the core of the 220,000-square-foot facility, said SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook — “rather than having an isolated M.D., nurse practitioner, pharmacist or therapist coming one at a time and not knowing what’s happening with the other parts of that equation.”
‘A crucial moment’
The new facility reflects health care’s shift to more holistic care, Pembrook said.
“One of the emphases for the building will be simulation labs,” Pembrook said. “Juxtaposing people close to each other across disciplines is a really important part of our future.”
This facility will likely be completed in 2023, with the university moving in that fall or in the fall of 2024, Pembrook said. It represents a continued focus from SIUE on collaborations across many fields. The investment in health science education also comes at a time when Illinois needs qualified medical professionals.
“This building will increase the school of nursing’s enrollment capacity at a crucial moment,” Pritzker said.
Pembrook expects the facility will help to meet the need for high-quality graduates in nursing and other medical professions, especially in the Metro East and surrounding region.
“Sixty percent of our alums stay within 50 miles when they graduate and go to work,” he said. “Strengthening our institutions and attracting more students means more people stay in the area.”
Investing in higher ed
Pritkzer’s announcement at SIUE comes one day after he announced the first $8.3 million to overhaul Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s communications building. The funding for both SIUC and SIUE comes from the Rebuild Illinois capital plan, which the Legislature passed last year.
“We are finally investing in rebuilding and restoring our college campuses,” Pritzker said. “The future of our state is in education, and the choices that we make about our schools now will determine the quality of our future.”
Pritzker underscored his dedication to affordable higher education in Illinois at the announcement at SIUE. For years, the state neglected to invest in higher education in any capacity, making it difficult for SIUE to recruit students and project stability, Pembrook said. The problems are not unique to the university in Edwardsville.
“It’s not so much about one school versus another, but the idea of investing in higher education across the board, so that as a state, we’re in a better position,” he said.
The investment from the state also means SIUE won’t have to ask current or future students to pay more in tuition, Pembrook said.
“Any time you have a new structure coming online, there are overhead costs relating to heating and cooling, building services,” he said. “We’re hoping additional student enrollment will address those additional overhead costs.”
He explained the new facility gives the university greater ability to attract new students to their nursing and allied health programs.
Eric Schmid covers the Metro East for St. Louis Public Radio as part of the journalism grant program Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricDSchmid.
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