SIC Board Looks to Save, Preserve and Persevere
The Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees met Tuesday, March 29 at 6 p.m. in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room to discuss multiple financial and structural modifications, student ratio reports, and the seating of a new student trustee.
The board approved financial efficiencies presented by the administration for adult education. A smaller grant to run the program will be submitted which will reduce the cost to carry by about $100,000. No full time positions will be affected.
The board tabled restructuring ideas for the WSBDC and Perkins Grant in order to reconfigure those areas given a recent resignation of an SBDC employee.
The board also suspended the handgun team due to lack of interest. Some of those scholarship dollars will be transferred, but a cost savings will also result.
In additional cost-saving measures, administrators discussed analysis of student computer lab usage and will submit suggestions later for further fiscal efficiencies.
In a more positive report, the board learned about SIC enrollments in comparison to other colleges across the state per data by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB). While enrollments have been declining statewide over the last several years, Southeastern has experienced a smaller decline compared to other regional colleges, peer cohorts and the state average. The state average headcount loss over five years was 16.8 percent. SIC only saw an 8.7 percent drop during that time.
“Despite some of the financial challenges, we’re trying to keep our focus on the students and ensure that we’re continuing to serve them well,” stated Chad Flannery, dean for student services and enrollment. “Just like with retention, recruitment is dependent upon every faculty and staff member at Southeastern. I think it speaks volumes to the caliber of faculty and staff that we have here that we’ve been able to maintain this level of enrollment.”
The board also heard a report on staffing levels. The most recent ICCB data shows that SIC has the strongest full-time teacher to student ratio in the region and among its cohort group at one full-time instructor per 23 students. Administrative staffing is the smallest among all regional colleges and the cohort group at only one administrator per 68 students. Non-teaching professionals are likewise with a 1:45 ratio, the widest margin of any comparative college group.
“We are lean and efficient, and that has resulted from some tough choices and lots of creativity along the way,” said Dr. Jonah Rice, president of SIC. “I commend my excellent staff, one that is not only dedicated to the college but also ethical and hard-working as well as frugal in approach.”
Administration also shared with the board many reductions and efficiencies that have taken place already and will be implemented during budget hearings in the coming months for next years budget.
“Budgeting will be a lot of guesswork because of not having a state budget. We’re a public institution that’s supposed to be funded in significant part by the State. But the State is not funding us. They told us years ago to be prepared for delays and unsteady payments. We have done so. SIC was prepared,” said Rice.
He explained after the board meeting that a multi-year impasse will affect the entire region.
“SIC has avoided mass layoffs for now due to careful financial management, but state supported schools can’t stay the same forever without state support. And there’s a ripple effect. The fewer we can afford to employ in the future, the less money there is in the region … fewer home loans … fewer cars bought … fewer prescriptions filled … fewer patients to see … and on and on. This impasse affects everyone, not just students and college employees.”
The board also swore in its new student trustee, Bridget Fitzpatrick of Eldorado, who will begin service to the board at the July 12 board meeting.
In personnel, the board approved Gary Jones as part-time Librarian, Lori Sizemore as the Mary Jo Oldham Center for Child Study Coordinator, accepted the resignations of Debbie Hadfield as CPR and Training Coordinator and Art Kaczynski as part-time weekend Custodian.
The next Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for April 19 at 6 p.m. in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room.