SIC Deemed Most Affordable Online College in Illinois
–State Budget Concerns Continue–
The Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees met in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room on Sept. 20 to hear that SIC tied for the most affordable online college in Illinois and to adopt the fiscal year 2017 budget, as well as hear numerous updates.
SIC tied for first place as the most affordable online college in the state, according to www.onlinecolleges.com. The college has long been an online leader, with multiple programs offered all online, and hundreds of online classes. Tuition for online courses regardless of location is $99 at SIC, plus fees.
About 41 percent of SIC students take at least one online course, which is a higher percentage than most other highly ranked Illinois colleges, according to Dr. Karen Weiss, Vice President for Academic Affairs.
After the meeting, Weiss mentioned that SIC has taught students from as far as Alaska and Maine in the online biofuels program.
The board accepted the current year’s official budget with an expected deficit due to the state’s neglect to pass a budget and fund higher education.
“We built into the budget about 62 percent of expected revenues from the state, but may only receive about 33 percent of what they will owe us for the year,” said Executive Dean of Business Affairs, David Wright.
President Jonah Rice, Ph.D., informed the board that the news from Springfield is pretty somber.
“We’ve heard that unless there is some sort of ‘grand bargain’ with the turnaround agenda, there will be no budget for perhaps the next two years,” said Rice. “That will be a very undesirable situation for all of higher education in Illinois.
Rice informed the board that SIC’s bond ratings remained the same after a recent review, despite the fact that bond ratings at other area colleges fell.
Officials said enrollment is flat compared to 2014, as SIC had an 11 percent increase in headcount last fall and expects to be down about that same amount this fall, when official numbers are reported next month.
A five-year enrollment trend from the Illinois Community College Board shows:
- The state average headcount drop was 14.9 percent over five years.
- SIC only saw a 4.9 percent dip in headcount in that time period.
- Regional colleges had a collective drop rate of approximately 40 percent headcount for the five years.
Despite the drop, there was an increase in the number of graduating seniors who enrolled this fall from last fall by 20 students.
“It’s amazing how steady we are in enrollment in the broad picture, despite the economic climate and local population decline,” said Executive Dean of Student Services, Chad Flannery, after the meeting. “In comparison, SIC is on much safer ground than some.”
The board also heard updates on the Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market (SICCM). Rice informed the board that the SICCM board met earlier in the day to discuss the future of the organization.
“There were some lively exchanges,” Rice quipped. “The good thing is, we’ve forced the discussion that SICCM must evolve to meet the current needs of the cooperating institutions and the students we serve. The group was formed nearly 50 years ago. The by-laws are woefully out of date. A lot has changed since then, and we must progress for the good of the entire group in the current climate of higher education.”
SIC presently participates in several programs with other area colleges through SICCM.
The board also passed a Protection Health Safety Upgrade to the water tower and approved a new student government logo.
In non-action, the board reviewed numerous updates and revisions to board policy, as well as reviewed documents pertaining to the possibility of community colleges offering limited advanced degrees.
In personnel, the board passed an institutional post-retirement proposal and hired adjunct faculty.
The next meeting of the board will be held on Oct. 18 in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room at SIC.