Chris Nielsen (RIGHT), Mine Training Coordinator for Rend Lake College, points out features on this 35-ton continuous miner on a tour of the college's Coal Mine Training Center during a meeting of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association Southeast Region Monday night. The miner was donated by Joy Mining Machinery and is valued at $1 million new. For a larger version of this photo, click here.
Chris Nielsen (LEFT), Mine Training Coordinator for Rend Lake College, introduces members of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association Southeast Region to this power center, used to operate mining equipment, during a tour of the college's Coal Mine Training Center last week. For a larger version of this photo, click here.
INA - Trustees and officials from several Southern Illinois community colleges were introduced to Rend Lake College's Coal Mine Training Center recently, and heard an update on the state's financial troubles as they relate to community colleges.
RLC hosted an informational meeting of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association Southeast Region last week. Longtime RLC trustee Marvin Scott, who also serves as the college's ICCTA representative, emceed the meeting.
The Southeast Region is made up of trustees from Rend Lake College, John A. Logan College, Shawnee Community College and Southeastern Illinois College. The ICCTA provides legislative advocacy and educational opportunities for community college boards.
The group was treated to a tour of the newest addition to RLC's campus, the 20,000-square-feet Coal Mine Training Center. "Coal mining is an inherently rich part of Rend Lake College's history. The training we are providing to coal miners in Southern Illinois is a great service," said RLC President Charley Holstein.
Chris Nielsen, RLC's Mine Training Coordinator, introduced the group to the 35-ton continuous miner, an integral piece of mining equipment valued at $1 million new and donated by Joy Mining Machinery, as well as to the new 12,000-volt power center used to operate mining equipment.
Also on tap was a tour of the facility's mock mine courtesy of David Colombo, Mining Technology Associate Professor. The mock mine features movable modular walls, enabling the layout to be changed for training purposes and different scenarios, and also has the capability of being filled with smoke and set with various ventilation points for rescue training.
Attendees also were told about the new Mine Rescue and Fire Safety facility which will be constructed just north of the Coal Mine Training Center. These two facilities combined will help provide all the necessary training for new miners in one place. In addition, college officials plan to host mine rescue competitions there.
Terry Wilkerson, RLC's Applied Science and Technology Division Chair, gave a brief synopsis of the mining program's storied history. As many as 17 full-time faculty taught in the mining program in the late 1970s, he said. At that time, training often ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As the industry declined in the 1980s, the program basically survived on the mandatory retraining required of working coal miners. This usually was done by a traveling faculty member.
With the anticipated resurgence of the industry, RLC brought back its Mining Technology program full force. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity provided a $1.07 million grant for the construction of the Coal Mine Training Center and a $285,000 grant for the construction of the Mine Rescue and Fire Safety facility. In addition, a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor helped pay for training, equipment, supplies and salaries. Other grants and donations also have helped bolster the program and the new facility.
RLC now offers an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Mining Technology and five related occupational certificates.
After the tour, ICCTA Executive Director Mike Monaghan updated the group on the status of Illinois' finances, noting that the state's financial problems continue. The state has experienced declining revenues for the past three years. "Illinois is still declining, we have not hit bottom. We are one of only three states that has not stopped declining," Monaghan said.
He noted that the community colleges in Southern Illinois were able to get three of their quarterly base operating and equalization grants this year, which is "beyond what we thought was even possible." However, the third quarterly payment came from federal stimulus money, Monaghan noted, and the Senate no longer has the 60 votes needed to pass another stimulus package.
He said the community colleges are looking at a "pretty rough" fiscal year 2011.
Holstein said the work of Guy Alongi, Chairman of the Illinois Community College Board, was integral to obtaining the quarterly payments the colleges did receive.
Alongi said for the Southeast Region's colleges to get 75 percent of their state funding in this fiscal climate is "impressive." However, he estimated that the colleges may only receive two of their quarterly payments in FY 2011, possibly three.
Incoming ICCTA President David Harby of Danville Area Community College said it is important for all the community colleges to stick together during these tough financial times.
Illinois has the third-largest community college system in the nation. There are 39 community college districts which contain 48 community colleges statewide. Each fall, Illinois community colleges account for nearly two-thirds (63.9 percent) of all students enrolled in Illinois public higher education, according to the ICCB Web site. Community colleges are the primary provider of the higher education experience in Illinois and serve as the local economic catalyst by providing retraining programs for displaced workers, additional education for career advancement for the employed, and advanced education for high school graduates preparing for the job market.
©2005 Rend Lake College