Kaskaskia College Community Engagement Event Held In Greenville

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Kaskaskia College held the final event in its series of Community Engagement meetings at the Greenville Education Center on November 9. The purpose of the event was to inform the community of the state of the College and to solicit input on how KC can better serve its communities and employers.

Dr. Penny Quinn, whose tenure as President of Kaskaskia College began in July, gave an overview of the College’s current situation and the impact resulting from the State of Illinois’ budget impasse. KC relies on state reimbursements for 32% of its operating budget, monies that have not been distributed and may not flow for some time to come. So far, KC has absorbed a $3.4 million loss of state revenue this year, and projects that, at best, it can continue providing its current level of service to students no later than February without an influx of state funding or securing loans.

Because of this, KC is taking a hard look at non-essential expenditures. Catering and food costs are being cut, and open staff positions are being consolidated rather than filled, where possible. The College is currently undertaking several return on investment (ROI) studies to identify more cost savings.

To help offset the financial crunch, KC is looking to expand its enrollments, which are projected to decrease 11% for the current fiscal year. Dr. Quinn explained that the College will be looking to expand its programming in areas that meet the criteria of low start-up costs, employers in need of skilled graduates, and decent wages for those completing the programs. She also said that KC will be looking to expand its online classes to attract students who may reside outside of the College’s district.

Cheryl Boehne, Director of Admissions, Registration, and Dual Credit for KC, who now has the area Education Centers under her responsibility, spoke briefly on faculty credential changes being made by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) which is the College’s accrediting body and the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) which will impact the dual credit program in our 17 high schools. Boehne explained that the guidelines not only apply to the high school dual credit instructors but adjunct faculty as well as full time college faculty. While the guidelines have always been in place the recent changes are very specific. Faculty teaching transfer level courses must have a Master’s degree in the subject area or a Master’s plus 18 graduate hours in the subject. The change will have little effect on career and technical faculty. Dr. Quinn added that although the College is very satisfied with the faculty who teach our dual credit classes, the credential requirements are being mandated by our accrediting body and we must follow the guidelines. Boehne added that the college is open to working with the high schools on alternative teaching opportunities in order to continue offering high school students the chance to earn college credits while in high school. The College must be in compliance by the start of the fall 2017 semester.

Jerri Davenport, Director of the Greenville Education Center, reported that the Center has classes in place to allow students to earn some degrees and certificates without the need to travel to the main campus. These include Associate’s in Arts and Sciences, Early Childhood Education, and general studies, with programs such as Criminal Justice expected soon. Davenport also spoke of the well-attended Community Education classes conducted at the Center that focus on such diverse topics as making a burlap wreath, to computer college, social networking, and many others.

Art Borum, Director of Industrial and Continuing Education at KC, spoke of a survey conducted with 30 area companies that employ at least 50 people, and said that the results of the survey show that these companies plan to employ an additional 1,300 employees in the coming year. The challenge, he said, was to match the job openings with potential employees who have the skills that the employers seek. KC has classes on the books to train the needed workforce, but disseminating the information that the jobs are there and that students can receive training at KC has prompted the creation of a Career Awareness Initiative. In this initiative, KC will work with area companies and high schools. The expectation will be that, as students and teachers become aware of the employment opportunities, students will receive the training to fill those positions.

A question and comment session followed, with attendees from Greenville College, Greenville Prison, and healthcare organizations expressing their appreciation of their partnerships with Kaskaskia College. Questions were raised about enrollment decline, which was attributed partly to an ebb cycle of high school enrollments, and about increasing the outreach to middle school students to start them thinking about college and career. Amy Troutt of KC spoke of the Adopt a Classroom initiative, in which 6th graders are made aware of college programs and career paths, and KC’s ongoing effort to bring area 8th graders to campus for career and science fairs.

Kaskaskia College has an annual positive impact of 24 million dollars on the region’s economy, and attendees were encouraged to reach out to the area legislators to bring an end to the state’s budget impasse and continue funding for education before irreparable damage is done.

For more information on Kaskaskia College’s Community Engagement, or to suggest ways that KC can help to build the communities, please contact Cheryl Boehne at 618-545-3184 or by email at cboehne@kaskaskia.edu.