SIC Board Discusses Affordability and a Solid Budget

July 8, 2015

The Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees met Tuesday, July 7 at 6 p.m. to hear updates on college affordability and the state's current budget crisis.

SIC President, Dr. Jonah Rice informed the board that the College maintains one of the most affordable tuition rates in the state and region.

"We have to remain affordable because so many parents see the value of our College-- especially when they see the staggering higher education debt that is piling up for so many who don't choose a community college" said Rice.

Rice reported that the national average American student loan debt is over $30,000, with some parents drowning in debt with second mortgages.

SIC students rarely have any significant debt for their college education.
According to reports, in the United States student loan debt has exceeded credit card debt, and about 70 percent of graduates have some higher education debt.

"It's heartbreaking to hear stories about parents who may have their entire retirement savings on the line--or their home up for a second mortgage--accumulating maybe up to six digits of debt in higher education loans for their kids, when they could have saved much of that by starting at Southeastern," Rice stated.

Dr. Frank Barbre, Vice Chairman and Illinois Community College Trustees Association Executive Board member added, "A major goal of our Board is to remain one of the best and most affordable higher education opportunities for our region."

SIC’s total cost of attendance is among the most affordable in the region with some charging anywhere from three to five, and in some cases 10 times that cost for just one year, according to Chad Flannery, Dean of Student Services.

Flannery noted that the actual cost of attendance must account for tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing, utilities, food and transportation among other factors. These elements can add up in a hurry unless parents and students know the questions to ask.

“We do our best to advise the students and their parents to estimate overall college costs,” said Flannery. “The bottom line is we want them to know how to get a quality education at an affordable price right here at SIC, and leave with very little, if any debt. Even when students earn large scholarships to universities, it can be shocking how high the actual out-of-pocket costs can be at a four-year institution. By attending SIC for their first two years, students can save literally thousands of dollars.”

As for budget news from the Capital, the state provides about 40-45 percent of the College's revenue, and given the budget stalemate, officials said it could be past the fall term before they see state reimbursements paid.

The board reported that cash flow management should remain solid for that waiting period, so there should not be any fiscal challenges in that time period.

The Board will review the College's fiscal year budget for 2017 in August. Administrators stressed that they expect it to be very tight but emphasized that cost control measures and continuing restructuring has helped achieve savings.

The Board also had reports on program review, strategic planning and budget process as well as two proposed policy revisions on residency and credit hour definition. The later change is mandated by the Federal government to demonstrate time spent on a subject.

In personnel, the Board heard about the success of the College's retirement incentive proposal.

The retirement incentive offer provided a limited number of employees with a one-year modest salary increase and longevity post-retirement benefit. The institution will save on positions.

College officials said they had hoped for a few more to take the retirement offer, and will most likely have to look at realignment in other areas to help reduce expenses for the future.

Also in personnel, a letter of retirement was received from Gary Jones, SIC Librarian, who will be retiring under the Early Retirement Incentive effective December 31, 2015. A resignation was received from Physics Instructor, Dr. Richard Holland effective July 31, 2015. The board also approved Cara Lehman as the Administrative Assistant to the Dean of Career and Technical Education effective July 20, 2015.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. in the Rodney J. Brenner Boardroom.