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BELLEVILLE — Southern Illinois University leaders on Thursday hired a consultant who will tell them how much money should be given to its Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses after months of debate about funding.

Duane Stucky, the board treasurer, said the university system has distributed its state money the same way since about 1975. Meanwhile, the number of students studying at the Edwardsville campus has been growing until it surpassed the flagship campus in Carbondale for the first time this fall.

At their meeting in Edwardsville, the SIU board of trustees picked the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges to conduct the study for an estimated $97,000.

It's expected to be completed within six months, when the trustees can use it to make a decision about how to dole out state cash for the next fiscal year, officials said in a news conference after the meeting.

Since the last board meeting in July, proposals from four consultants were evaluated by officials from the university system, including the chancellors from the Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses, the dean of the school of medicine and the board treasurer.

Stucky said SIU had asked a total of six groups that had an expertise in higher education for proposals.

The three proposals trustees considered at their meeting Thursday were from the following organizations:

-- Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges

-- rpk GROUP

-- National Center for Higher Education Management Systems

Their costs ranged from $97,000 to $100,000 for the work, according to Stucky, who is also SIU's senior vice president for financial and administrative affairs. Because the cost was similar for all of the proposals, officials said it didn't play a big role in the decision.

In a meeting Wednesday before the board voted on a consultant, acting SIU President J. Kevin Dorsey said it would be important to get an unbiased recommendation.

"One of the goals that I think we have to have is the perception of fairness because if someone's ox is going to get gored, they can always cry foul," Dorsey said.

Some have argued that SIU should shift some of its money to Edwardsville because of its enrollment gains. Others have said taking money away from Carbondale could harm the programs it offers, as well as the local and regional economies.

Trustees unanimously approved hiring the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Trustee Randal Thomas was not present at the meeting.

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