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SIC Board learns of new grants and new curriculum amid the usual state budget barriers


The SIC Board of Trustees held their first meeting of 2017 on Jan. 17.  Pictured in the front row (l-r) are Bridget Fitzpatrick, Student Trustee; Blake Bradley; Debbie Hughes; Dr. Frank Barbre, Vice-Chair; and Barbara Potter, Recording Secretary.  Back row (l-r) are Dr. Jonah Rice, President; Jim Ellis, Secretary; Richard Morgan; Dr. Pat York, Chair; and David Dennison.

The Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees met Tuesday, Jan. 17 in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room to hear a report on how the college is maintaining its Workforce and Illinois Small Business Development Center (WISBDC), as well as hear about new grants and curriculum.  The board also discussed possible budget restrictions and passed a tuition increase.

“Many colleges in the state have shut down their SBDC operations due to a lack of funding,” said President Jonah Rice, Ph.D.  “SIC understands the important role of our WISBDC, and we want to continue those services.”

Lori Cox, Assistant Dean and Director of the WISBDC, told the board that she is working with multiple community stakeholder groups and intends on a new campaign to support the Center.

“We have had great support from both the Saline County Chamber and First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust during this budget impasse in Springfield,” Cox said.

Cox reported that the WISBDC will move operations to the main campus this summer but the Chamber will still be housed in First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust.

“We will begin a donor program for our WISBDC very soon.  This is a model that is being successfully used by other colleges that have kept their centers open,” Cox said.

“The college knows how important small business development is to our region,” Rice said.  “We’re doing everything we can with great leadership by Lori (Cox) to maintain these vital services.”

The board also learned of three grants the college has secured.

The Diesel program will receive a nearly $50,000 grant from the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) for the purchase of two diesel engine trainers to help train future and current technicians on retrofitting engines for new emission standards, according to Vice President for Academic Services, Dr. Karen Weiss.  She also acknowledged Southeastern Illinois Regional Planning Commission’s assistance in securing the DRA grant.

Two grants under the guidance of Executive Dean of Academic Services Gina Sirach will support the development of dual credit courses and expand student access to higher education to enhance the transition from high school to college.

“We are working with most of the high schools in our district to implement new dual credit offerings and engage secondary and postsecondary faculty in curriculum alignment and articulation activities related to current and new dual credit offerings,” said Sirach.

The new dual credit offerings will include business, English and math courses.

The board learned of a new veterinary assistant/animal care specialist program that will be offered at the David L. Stanley Center in Carmi this fall, pending approval by the Illinois Community College Board.

The new program is only a one-semester program for students who want to work in veterinary offices or open their own animal care specialist business, such as grooming or boarding.  The program will be offered jointly between SIC and Rend Lake College.

Officials say the new program is much less expensive than the traditional two-year veterinary technician program, and a higher rate of completion is expected.

The board also learned that budget strategies for next year would fall short of the $1 million gap goal without reductions.  The gap is the combined amount of funds the college wanted to both increase as revenue and reduce as cuts to help bridge the loss of state funds.

At present, the college has been paid only 44 percent of what the state owes, causing the college to consider more fiscal management strategies.  Some options include position needs evaluation and perhaps soliciting proposals for custodial services.

The board also increased tuition by $7 for a total of $106 per credit hour, effective this summer.  The increase is comparable to other regional community colleges and still below the state average.

“Our tuition is still a far cry from the cost of a university—especially when you consider the exorbitant fee structure at a senior institution,” said Rice.

In personnel, the board approved retirements for Barbara Potter, effective April 30; Peggy McDowell, Barbara Willmore and Jack Mummert, all effective June 30; David Wright, effective April 30, 2018; John Shultz effective May 31, 2018; Van Wathen effective June 30, 2018; Patty Winters, effective April 30, 2019; Allan Kimball, effective May 31, 2019; and Gina Sirach, effective June 30, 2020.

The board also approved the transfers of Kathleen Riggs from the position of Adult Education Assistant to the position of Financial Aid Specialist, Devona Morales from the position of part-time Adult Education Secretary to the position of TRiO Program Specialist, and Angela Dunk from the position of Adult Education Coordinator and Data Manager to TRiO Advisor.  The board also approved a number of adjunct faculty.

The next meeting of the Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 6 p.m.