SIUE celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007. The institution traces its origin to a farsighted group of concerned parents and business leaders in the community. In 1955, the group began an advocacy campaign to establish a public university. By 1956, they had formed the Southwestern Illinois Council for Higher Education. Convinced that public higher education opportunities were needed in the Metro-East portion of the greater St. Louis area, the Council aggressively lobbied state officials and commissioned a consultant study to document that need.
In 1957, the See-Myers report was released and indicated that in Madison-St. Clair Counties, with 600,000 residents, the largest population concentration in the state outside of metropolitan Chicago, only three percent of the adult population had completed four years of college. There was no conveniently located university in the two-county area and many students could not afford to pay tuition and live away from home. Area business leaders and industrialists articulated an ever-growing need to hire college-educated employees.
In 1957, SIU opened two residence centers in Alton and East St. Louis. In 1958, the Council began a highly-successful private fundraising campaign to purchase land for a new campus. By 1959 enrollment had increased to 3,800 greatly exceeding the temporary facilities and available services. A planning team investigated permanent sites in the Metro-East counties and selected a location near Edwardsville. When Illinois legislators authorized a bond issue to fund public university facility improvements in 1960, area residents expressed their overwhelming approval at the ballot box. Groundbreaking for SIU Edwardsville was held in 1963. In 1965, SIUE opened the Peck Classroom Building and Lovejoy Library in the midst of 2,660 acres of rolling land and woods.
Today, fulfilling the dreams of the Council, SIUE is a premier Metropolitan University, offering a broad choice of degrees and programs ranging from liberal arts to professional studies. Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered in the arts and sciences, business, education, engineering, and nursing. Professional degrees are available in dental medicine and pharmacy.
SIUE has maintained its historic ties to the communities of Alton and East St. Louis. The School of Dental Medicine maintains its campus in Alton, using many of the same buildings that housed its first students in 1957. The East St. Louis Center remains dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families in East St. Louis and surrounding urban areas.
Since economic growth today is inescapably knowledge-based, through its skilled graduates, its faculty expertise in consulting and grants, and its multi-million dollar expenditures, SIUE contributes substantially to the economic vigor of our metropolitan region. SIUE is one of the largest employers in Madison County. More than sixty percent of SIUE alumni live within 50 miles of campus. Our graduates become part of a highly-educated, skilled workforce, enriching the communities in which they live.
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