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Continuing Lack of Funding Means Changes for College

January 20, 2016

The Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees met in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room on Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. to approve revised mission statements, a modest tuition increase, and reduction of personnel.

As part of its strategic planning process, the college revised its mission, vision, and goal statements through an extensive committee process that the board ultimately approved.

The mission and accompanying vision statement remain essentially the same as before.

President Dr. Jonah Rice reported statewide concerns regarding all of higher education funding, or lack thereof, and how long it may be before any state payments are made and what cuts could look like when revenue is finally promised.

Officials discussed with the board the expectation that colleges and universities could face up to 18 months, possibly even longer, with no funding from Springfield and end up with reduced funding when it does start to flow.

Growing speculation that the political stalemate will result in a ‘debt strike’ for this year would greatly impede cash flow to public institutions.

The board was given financial models of various scenarios that affect the bottom line.

“From what we are hearing, none of our expected scenarios are good,” Rice said.

“It’s just sad to think that after all the hard work, heavy lifting, and strong community support in the past seven years since Illinois hit a wall, there’s no release on the pressure." 

After the board meeting, Rice made a comparison to help demonstrate the situation.

He referenced a recent study out earlier this week that said the State paid a $53 million penalty when it sold $480 million in general obligation bonds last week.

“That penalty amount would have funded the State’s portion to SIC for almost 12 years, and that would have meant smaller tuition increases passed on to students and fewer--if any—layoffs.”

In response to the state’s delinquency on payments, the board approved a $5 per credit hour tuition increase, bringing the total per credit hour cost to $99.

Dean of administration and business affairs, David Wright said that was in line with what most colleges are discussing and will still make SIC one of the most affordable colleges in the state and region.

The board also increased fees for hybrid courses, technical fees, and the Early College Program fee.

The technology fee will be increased by $2 dollars, a hybrid course fee of $25 was added, and Early College increased by $2.

The Adult Education program, including the early school leavers program and the GED program, will be reduced greatly at mid-term and includes three layoff notices.  While current classes will conclude in March, one class on SIC’s campus will continue through May. A re-evaluation of the program’s funding status will be conducted this summer to determine what level of activity will be possible for the Fall 2016 semester.    

“The state has failed to provide funding for these very valuable programs,” said Vice President Dr. Dana Keating. 

The college also reduced an administrative position at the Carmi Center and reduced hours of operation there.  Some part-time and contractual staff had hours reduced.

Rice emphasized that SIC will maintain operations but will continue to reengineer and react to the bad news from the state capitol.

The college has increased efficiencies over the years resulting in, for example, the smallest administration in the entire region.

Rice noted it was sad to bring the recommendations from administration but as reserves shrink and red budgets are increasingly likely because of the debacle in Springfield, tough decisions will have to be made. 

“These decisions are not this Board’s fault.  They are not the fault of anyone in this room or at this college.  The fault lies in this budget impasse--plain and simple,” Rice noted.

“It’s time.  It’s time to be statesmen and get this settled for the students, for they are the ones who will suffer in the end.  Let’s get a budget and work together on any differences to end this now.”

In addition to several reductions in staff and administration, the board accepted the resignation of Josh Ervin, accounts receivable specialist, men’s basketball coach and fitness center monitor, employed Maddison Maloney, admissions specialist, employed Dara Cox, TRIO/Student Support Services part-time academic advisor and approved a number of adjunct faculty members.

The next Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room. 

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