Springfield….State Representative Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) voted against an an outright attack on Southern Illinois University’s Carbondale campus by House Speaker Michael Madigan’s top lieutenants on Thursday. Bryant says Rep. Jay Hoffman of Collinsville marshaled the leverage afforded to the Democrat majority to rush a proposal to the House’s Higher Education Committee that would split the Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses into two separate universities.
“I firmly believe that Southern Illinois University will be healthier and more attractive as a cohesive unit, and I believe splitting the system apart will weaken it,” Bryant said. “SIU Carbondale is a nationally accredited research University. The loss of that accreditation would be devastating, leaving the University of Illinois as the only accredited higher education research facility in Illinois. SIU Carbondale is also in a period of transformation and reorganization and this is another in a long line of recent attacks on Southern Illinois’ flagship university.”
Bryant and other Republican members of the House Higher Education committee expressed concerns with a number of facets in the amendments to the bill, and pushed back against claims that SIU Edwardsville has had an explosion in enrollment growth over the last 7 years.
“SIU Edwardsville’s enrollment has actually gone down slightly over the period of the last 7 years,” Bryant said. “So, if the argument is that SIU Edwardsville is growing so fast that it needs more money, then let’s study that. The numbers do not seem to bear that out, but I believe a third party should provide an independent analysis of the effect that a move like this would have on not only the Carbondale campus, but on the entire region’s economy.”
HB 1292 passed the Committee and the bill was sent to the full House by a partisan roll call margin of 12 to 7, with all Republican State Representatives voting no.
“Today’s hearing, and last week’s joint press statement have made very clear that a bipartisan group of legislators from Southern Illinois oppose the plan to split SIU into two different universities,” Bryant said. “ I want to thank my southern Illinois colleagues for standing up for SIU Carbondale and I pledge that I will continue to fight against this effort.”
The bill now moves to the full House for consideration, where it’s sponsor has promised to continue discussions with the House’s Higher Ed Committee if any changes are made to the bill.