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SIC Board Meets – Nursing Top 3, Remedial Course Fusion, Trustee Training and Low Funding

The Southeastern Illinois College Board met Tuesday, Aug. 9 to discuss a breadth of matters ranging from highly positive to highly unfortunate.

In top positive news, the board heard about a five-year study of Associate Degree Nursing that showed SIC is the only college in the south to be in the top five in the entire State.  In fact, SIC is ranked third in the state by this study behind McHenry County College in Crystal Lake and Harper College in Palatine respectively.  Ranking fourth and fifth are Joliet Junior College and Kishwaukee College in Malta.

According to SIC executive dean of academic services, Gina Sirach, the study was conducted by SIC in response to discussion among nursing directors in the state regarding proposed mandates by some nursing directors from upstate.

“While we are not against their ideas, we are opposed to a legislated mandate that would require all programs in the state to implement certain requirements with many associated costs during a time of fiscal crisis,” said Sirach.  “We have a long history of success with both of our nursing programs without such mandates.  Not only do our faculty assist students in mastering skills required to be successful in the workforce and at the university setting, should they choose to transfer to obtain higher degrees; but they also work very closely with nursing students to ensure that they achieve success on the national licensing exam.”

Three of the top five Associate Degree Nursing programs in the study do not have the requirements from the proposed mandates.

In positive news for students that need remediation in basic skills, SIC is working on new ways to speed time to completion, particularly for those needing help with writing and reading skills.  SIC will be fusing two courses into one to reduce cost for the students and keep them from taking extra classes, which will help them earn degrees more quickly.  Additional tutoring is also offered free in the Dana Keating Student Success Center.

“Remediation can be a barrier for students in completing their programs of study, especially if there are multiple levels to overcome,” said Dr. Karen Weiss, vice president for academic affairs.  “We are making great strides in working with faculty to develop alternate strategies and creating new initiatives to help students succeed and move past these challenges.”

The board also learned about a new trustee training law in Illinois for newly elected trustees.  New trustees in the state will now be required to take mandatory training on finance, ethics, and trusteeship, among other subjects.

Trustee, Dr. Frank Barbre said, “Training is something the board has already engaged to a great extent at SIC with our participation in trustee seminars and educational opportunities.  Mandating it for newly elected board members will help them understand how community colleges function.”

Barbre also noted that this newly required training is the most stringent of any type of training for units of local government in the state.

The board reviewed the fiscal 2017 tentative budget, and noted that the sixth month stop-gap budget passed by the state only funded community colleges like SIC about 33 percent of full funding.  Last year the college was funded at 42 percent with a shortfall of 58 percent from the State.  Last year’s shortfall and this year’s shortfall will be mitigated by reserves.

“Those reserves will never come back, so we are picking up the State’s tab on this,” said Dr. Jonah Rice, SIC president.  “Reserves don’t last forever, so the State must end this game of chicken soon.  There are no other good options than to fix the problem sooner than later.”

If the State does not fulfill its full funding commitment to community colleges, the college’s budget will be in the red despite cost reductions.

David Wright, executive dean of business affairs for SIC said, “It is hard to see decades of good business practice in building reserves decimated by the state in just a few years.”

Dr. Rice noted that 10 years ago, the state paid 54 percent of SIC’s operating revenue.  This year, the state has only committed to 16 percent of the college’s operating revenue for six months, but administrators hope for a better funding commitment after the new year.

A public hearing will be conducted regarding the 2016-17 college budget during the September board meeting.  A copy of the budget is available for public review in the Office of Business Affairs or on the college website

The board heard a report on the Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market (SICCM), and how the funding model is detrimental to most member institutions.  Some programs have very low completion rates, and several colleges including SIC are evaluating their participation in some of the programs.

An update was given to the board on SIC Foundation activities.  The Foundation secured a new fire engine from Lake of Egypt Fire District for the college through the help of a fire science instructor and other SIC personnel.  The SIC Student Government working with the Foundation exceeded expectations on the Leap Day Tornado Memorial and Patio Fountain brick campaign, and construction will begin soon.  The bow fishing tournament fundraiser had a positive start with new plans for next year, and two additional scholarships are in the works.

A new student food bank will begin later in the fall at Southeastern thanks to David Morse and Pam Pearson at Country Companies Insurance in Harrisburg.  More details will be forthcoming.

In personnel, the board approved the employment of Brenda Knight as a full-time practical nursing instructor, effective Aug. 15, approved to recall the Adult Education employees effective Aug. 10 through Dec. 31, and approved a number of adjunct faculty.

The next scheduled board of trustees meeting will be Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room in the Harry Abell Administration Building.