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SIC Board Finds Much to Celebrate

The Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees met Tuesday, Feb. 20 and found there is much to celebrate this year.  The college has been notified of a number of awards in both the program and competitive team arenas, and expect more to come.

Some of those accolades include:

    • First in state among online colleges
    • Top 20 nationally among online colleges (#19)
    • First in state for Registered Nursing Program
    • First in state for Associate Degree Nursing Program
    • First in the region for a welding competition
    • Fourth in the nation for Indoor Archery
    • Several national awards in 3D Archery
    • Tenth in state for Early Childhood Education Completion Rates

Then the morning after the board meeting, the news came in that SIC was once again ranked by the Aspen Institute as one of the top 10 percent community colleges in the US, and eligible for the bi-yearly monetary award.

Additionally, the college is working on a number of new programs and initiatives, such as Powersports Technology to help train workers to fill needs in ATV shops (mentioned last month), Taxidermy in the evenings for hunting enthusiasts, and more.

“Southeastern must and will continue to understand that we must continue to move forward and respond to new needs and possibilities,” said President Dr. Jonah Rice.  “These new programs serve a need identified by our stakeholders, and we are proud to serve them”

In another bit of good news, the board learned that Federal Pell grants will be available this summer after having been eliminated for the past several years.  That means those eligible for Pell grants in the fall and spring semesters will also be eligible for the grant to continue classes in the summer session.

Despite the good news, it was also necessary to talk state budget.

“The governor’s budget will not be the final product, and there are some concerns that we may have a stalled budget process again,” said Rice.

Rice said he and other presidents have met with key Springfield leaders to emphasize the value of community colleges to the entire state.

“The state spends about a nickel on a community college student compared to a dollar on a university student, yet community colleges educate nearly 300,000 Illinois students—double that of all the universities combined,” said Rice.  “Community colleges can’t stand any more cuts or budget shell games… It’s time to prioritize the great work we do.  Our nursing program was the only community college in the top five in the state rankings.  That nickel goes a long way.”

Later, the board rejected bids from last month for the much anticipated Ella Elizabeth Hise Museum of Art due to misaligned architectural estimates and actual construction bids.  Architects will work on a re-design and the college will re-bid the project as soon as possible.

“We have been working with Mr. Hise and appreciate his commitment to the project,” said Rice.

Dr. Rice also reported on the National Community College Legislative Summit.

“We (Rice and other community college presidents) met with Rep. Shimkus’ aide, Sen. Durbin and Sen. Duckworth to discuss the need for the Delta Regional Authority grants, the Title III Strengthening Institutions grant, and the work study programs,” said Rice.  “The president’s budget would cut all of those, but we hope that Congress will not allow such drastic measures that benefit students like ours, as well as the communities we serve.”

The Delta Regional Authority works to improve regional economic opportunity by helping to create jobs, build communities, and improve the lives of those in the eight-state Delta region, which includes southern Illinois.  The grants play a key role.

The board learned that after accounting for workforce, allied health and business occupational classes which begin throughout the semester, college officials expect to see enrollment numbers at about four percent down near mid-term.

Rice also talked about tracking trend data in courses and programs to help with marketing and recruiting with weekly updates to see where to target enrollment drives.

In action items, the board approved Protection, Health and Safety (PHS) final project completion reports and the purchase of a new air cooled chiller for E and F buildings and passed curriculum recommendations.

The board also heard a presentation from instructors Ralph Boots and Robbie Lindhorst on Powersports Technology.  Inquiries are already being made about the program, and they expect the program to fill quickly and become a very popular major.

In personnel, the board accepted the resignation of financial aid specialist Lexi Hopkins and approved the hire of Kelsi Love as the Associate Director of Enrollment Services and Chris Barr as the Institutional Research and Effectiveness Administrator.  The board also approved adjunct faculty recommendations.

Music instructor Cory Garmane was granted tenure.

“Cory does a great job both in the class and out of the class,” said Rice.  “We appreciate all the work and time he devotes to students and programs.”

The next meeting of the board will be Thursday, March 22 at 6 p.m. in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room at SIC.