INA - Several special guests joined members of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association Southeast Region Monday night as Rend Lake College hosted the first in a series of the group's informational meetings at the Ina campus.
RLC President Charley Holstein welcomed the group, saying he hopes each meeting will be better than the last. 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. Barbara Oilschlager, ICCTA President, was on hand to update the group about happenings at the state level.
"We have accomplished a lot this year, and we still have a lot on our plate," she said. "When you get ordinary people working together toward a common purpose, you certainly can achieve extraordinary results."
Oilschlager, currently a trustee of the College of Lake County, became ICCTA President on July 1. Earlier this month, she penned a letter to the editor which was distributed to trustees statewide for submission to their local papers. In it, Oilschlager noted that while enrollments at community colleges are climbing, the institutions still have considerable challenges to overcome in terms of funding.
"In Illinois, for example, though community colleges educate more than 60 percent of the state's undergraduates, overall, we receive only 13 percent of the state's higher education dollars. Just as significantly, the dollar amount of that share has been declining - from $347 million in Fiscal Year 2002 to $297 million in the just-completed Fiscal Year 2009," she wrote.
Guy Alongi, Chairman of the Illinois Community College Board, brought up the subject of the Monetary Award Program, the state's oldest needs-based student aid program. The current state budget funds only the current fall semester for these grants and their recipients. Funding for the Spring 2010 semester does not exist, which brings up the very real possibility that thousands of Illinois' neediest college students may not be able to continue their educations in the spring. A statewide effort to convince legislators to restore funding for this program has been launched.
Holstein said the $200 million shortfall in MAP funding is a "significantly important issue to anyone involved in higher education."
ICCTA Executive Director Mike Mohaghan updated the group on the status of Illinois' finances. The state and the community college system face an uphill battle in terms of budgets and funding, he said. He noted that the state is not going to make its quarterly payments to community colleges on time, and that it is possible that these payments will be delayed by six months or more, adding to the need of community colleges to do more with less.
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 (63.2 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.