Monday, September 26, 2016

Response to SIUC Post

In response to my post last week on my thoughts regarding the reasons for the drop in attendance at SIUC, I received the following email, reposted with permission:

I agree that SIUC grew larger than can be sustained, but I believe you’re considering primarily it’s ability to serve the undergraduate needs of the region, as SEMO does. SEMO offers very few graduate courses, and no PhDs that I’m aware of. It’s a very different animal than SIUC.

SIUC is not only a nationally recognized university, but an internationally recognized one. Its graduate programs - particularly at the doctoral level - bring in a great deal of research money (or did until the previous administrations instituted unacceptably strict line control and other regulations that drove off many of the university’s top grant-generating scholars). These programs contribute a great deal to the region through graduate research and internships in many sectors, from social services to environmental and agricultural issues to new technologies. A primarily undergraduate institution like SEMO has very few of these synergies with the region. 

SIUC is also the only university in the state that has both a law school and a medical school (UIC manages the University of Illinois medical school; UIUC manages the system’s law school). 

While SIU is a regionally focused system, it is the only such system in the state, with campuses in Edwardsville and Carbondale. Edwardsville is more comparable to SEMO as it has few if any doctoral programs and primarily services the region. Carbondale is more comparable to UIUC - although you’re correct in noting that it’s fallen behind its ambitions to achieve something close to parity with the state’s flagship Land Grant university. Nonetheless, UIC is the only regional university in the state that ranks ahead of SIUC in doctoral degrees and, until the revision of Carnegie standings, Carnegie status, which is based largely on the number of doctoral programs and research productivity.

SIUC’s long strong suit for many years has been its environmental and natural resources focus, which crosses departments and colleges. Unfortunately, it lost its leading professor due to the previous administration - he took a chairmanship at another university. Hopefully, once the state gets its act together, the current leadership will be able to rebuild this pioneering multi-disciplinary program, as well as rebuild the universities’ other premier programs and its library. SIUC has a hard-earned global reputation; it shouldn’t squander that.

I expect that SIUC should reduce some of its doctoral offerings in deference to increasing quality, but without doctoral programs, the overall ability of the university to thrive and grow will decline.

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