Rend Lake College officials and tool industry representatives recently put their heads together and came up with an idea to help students afford the expensive tool sets they use in the Fabick Caterpillar Heavy Equipment Technology, Agricultural Mechanics, Diesel Technology and Automotive programs at RLC.
RLC’s Big Tool Night was a huge success, according to Heavy Equipment Technology instructor Joe Kloepper.
RLC invited leading tool companies PROTO, CAT, MAC, Snap-On, NAPA and MATCO to set up display tables at the new Applied Science Center and compete for sales. On Aug. 29, the companies arrived with discounted tool kits to suit each program. Because students could purchase the tools through the RLC Book Store, they could use excess Pell grant, scholarship or low-interest student loan funds to pay for the expensive sets.
“Being able to use their grant money in that way was a big deal to the students,” he said.
A Heavy Equipment Technology student is required to have about $6,000 in tools, which are available to an RLC student at 50 or even 40 percent of their value, according to Kloepper.
Big Tool Night was well attended. Kloepper estimated that more than 70 students and parents showed and the last student was leaving about 15 minutes prior to the end of the two-hour sale.
“I think the Snap-On guy had writer’s cramp by the end of the night,” he joked.
“I heard positive comments from everyone - the students, the parents and the vendors,” he added. “Everyone thought it was set up well. It was a good deal for the students and that is what we were after.”
The varied vendors from a cross-section of the tooling industry enabled students to choose the quality of tools that fit their budget. Those who could not afford top-of-the-line sets for $2,500 or $3,000 were able to purchase less expensive sets and still meet the requirement defined by their program. Moreover, they could purchase partial sets which gets them part of the way to the required full set.
Kloepper said he is being flexible with students who cannot afford the tools now. But, they must have their own sets by the summer, when their first of two internships begin, he added. According to him, dealerships such as those through Fabick CAT will not hire a summer intern who dose not have the beginner set of tools. The average set of tools a heavy equipment technician carries cost at least $10,000 if not $20,000.
“In the real world, nobody loans their tools,” he said. “$2,500 only gets you started. There is a long road ahead after that.”
Lists of tool inventories available through each of the manufacturers at the Big Tool Night are on file at the RLC Book Store. Students can still order from the list, however the ability for them to use excess grant money ends Friday, Sept. 9, according to Dorothy Feira, RLC Book Store Manager and Textbook Coordinator.
According to Feira, nearly a dozen students have already ordered sets through the RLC Book Store. Ordering through the Book Store is only an option for students who want to pay for the tool sets with funding through Pell grants, scholarships or student loan disbursements, she added.
As of now, the next Big Tool Night will be in late August or early September, 2007.