SIC Board Discusses Enrollment, Budget and State News

September 22, 2015

The Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees met Tuesday, Sept. 15 to hear good news about an uptick in enrollment compared to last year and to approve a final budget that is in the black, but only by about $7,000.

Enrollment is up almost two percent in credit hours and nearly 200 in headcount compared to last year.

“Students and the families who foot much of the bill for college realize that not only is SIC affordable, but you are getting a quality education,” said Dr. Jonah Rice, SIC President.

A new dual credit initiative in information literacy for high school students is credited with much of the increase.  Dr. Rice expressed thanks to all who contributed to that effort.

Southeastern’s budget is once again in the black, but barely, coming in about $7,000 to the good.

“It’s tight, that’s for sure,” said David Wright, Dean of Administration and Business Affairs.

Officials say that the budget is based on an expected appropriation from the state.

“We waited as long as we could for the state to get a budget,” said Rice.  “We had to create our budget per statute, so we based it on the best assumption the state could give us.”

Rice added that the assumption is looking more like a long shot from news gathered last week in Springfield.

“In short, it’s looking rocky for all of higher education,” added Rice. “We’re looking at very long delays in State payments and were told cuts were coming, pension reform is coming, and condensed curriculum is coming. This is really going to be a wake up call for all in higher education. We’re fortunate not to be in the most dire straits as perhaps other schools, but it’s not going to be easy for anyone.”

Some scenarios put a state budget coming in after the New Year, with delayed payments even after that, given that the state will have to catch up on so many back payments.

“The longer we wait, the longer it will take to catch up on payments, and that increases the chances of cuts to state aid even this year,” stated Rice.  “Some say of upwards of 20 percent, but that’s just speculation at this point.”

Rice noted that the group of presidents also heard about calls for colleges to reduce remedial education, examine low enrollment programs and cap hours for programs that may require too many courses for students.

“The most powerful quotation I heard was at the beginning of the meeting when one official said, ‘The past is gone and will never return again. 

We have to figure out what the future is going to look like,’” added Rice. “That pretty much summed it up for all of us.”

The SIC administration also informed the board that SIC will reduce administration even more than it already has after the retirement of two administrators this year.

Officials say they will reengineer the administration and only fill one position in place of the existing two and spread around the duties among other administrators, all in an effort to maintain services and reduce costs.

“SIC has the smallest number of administrators among all our peer colleges and they do amazing work,” said Rice.  “Of course, all our College staff does an amazing job of juggling 10 balls in the air at the same time.  That is becoming a reality for the College, as painful as it may be for some to realize that.  Everyone is having to do that.”

Rice noted the visiting professorship they have with Rend Lake College, a relationship among the institutions to share full-time instruction for very low enrollment courses that otherwise would not probably make due to shrinking numbers.

“A visiting professor allows us to maintain full-time instruction, and in this most recent case with Rend Lake College, we have the same professor SIC employed for eight years teaching the same courses now that he accepted a position at Rend Lake,” said Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, Dr. Dana Keating.

Keating added that given the late resignation, SIC had no time to conduct a national search so this visiting professorship was a very viable option.

Officials add that Rend Lake uses SIC’s full-time Spanish instructor and the two colleges will share a full-time graphic design position with Shawnee College as well.

“Working together with our neighbors is a norm these days, all in an effort to serve students and maintain low enrollment programs,” said Keating.

The board also passed a number of policy revisions related to student services and academics as part of a policy review project.

The use of the George T. Dennis Visual and Performing Arts Center for the Harrisburg Medical Center Annual Fundraiser was approved by the board.

In personnel, the board approved the employment of David Port as the part-time Director of Service and Outreach for the David L. Stanley Center in Carmi, IL, Melissa Nicks as the part-time Bookstore Clerk, the transfer of Lane O’Brien to the part-time, temporary, Online Course Conversion Technician position, and accepted the resignation of Art Fitz-Gerald, the part-time TRIO Advisor.

The next meeting of the Board of Trustees is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. in the Rodney J. Brenner Boardroom.