The University Professionals of Illinois (UPI) chapter at Western Illinois University is speaking out against a possible budget reduction proposal that recommends a "desired" student to faculty ratio of 17:1 for Western.
Bill Thompson, WIU UPI President, said Western advertises its current student to faculty ratio of 15:1 as being lower than other schools and a reason to attend Western, and Barbara Ashwood of the WIU UPI Executive Committee said the 15:1 ratio is something the school should try to maintain.
"It is an advantage. That's what makes WIU unique," said Ashwood. "We provide our students with individualized attention and it's something that we do well here."
The union said the proposed new ratio could only be achieved through an enormous enrollment increase or by reducing the number of teachers. UPI said if tenured/tenure track teachers are let go, Western would lose a body of knowledge, accreditation could be put at risk, and graduate programs would have to be dropped. And the union said it would not help to cut non-tenured track teachers because it would take nearly three of them to offset the cost of a tenure track teacher, meaning many more classes would be impacted.
Thompson said he wants to know how the administration concluded 17:1 is the desired ratio. "What makes it desirable? What drives that number?" he asked.
Thompson said he recognizes WIU is in a tough budget situation through no fault of its own. State financial support has steadily declined for more than a decade and no state money has been allocated for higher education so far this fiscal year, which began July 1.
"Springfield is where the biggest part of our problem lies," he said.
Thompson and Ashwood said they want to work with the administration on the challenges WIU faces but they also don't want to see harm done to the educational experience for students. And Thompson said even if the the ratio is changed, it won't help WIU for the current school year. The flow chart indicates the"desired" student to faculty ratio of 17:1 is for Fiscal Year '17, which begins July 1, 2016.
The faculty contract with Western expires one year later on June 30, 2017.