A large group of Vandalia citizens attended a Community Meeting this week at the KC Vandalia Campus to listen to comments from KC President, board members and administrators as the College continues to address the fiscal challenges created from the state budget impasse which began in July of 2015.
The meeting was held to inform the citizens of Vandalia that the KC Board of Trustees will receive a recommendation to consolidate LPN instruction at its July 25 Board meeting. If the recommendation would receive approval, all LPN classes would be held at the new Nursing Education Center on the Centralia Main Campus starting in January of 2017.
The recommendation is being made in order to continue efforts in closing the budget gap created by the State of Illinois’ budget impasse, and further complicated due to a significant loss of Vandalia area students applying and being admitted to the LPN program. No other classes or programs currently scheduled at Vandalia are to be affected this fall.
Dr. Penny Quinn, KC President and CEO, explained the reasons for the recommendation to consolidate include a decline in applied and accepted students from the Vandalia area by almost 50% from 2011 to 2016, and course offerings in Vandalia have been supplemented with students residing outside the Vandalia area. She identified that if consolidation is approved by the Board of Trustees, it does not prohibit future review of LPN delivery at Vandalia. In addition to the decline in student interest in the LPN program at Vandalia, the lack of a state budget over the past two years has created extreme circumstances for the College. Quinn stated, “KC has made over $2M in budget cuts; however, if no additional dollars are allocated for Community Colleges by the State of Illinois this year, KC will have experienced a loss of 61% of our normal income over the past two years. Such loss creates very hard decisions for the Board of Trustees.”
Quinn went on to say that if approved, “All students would have direct access to specialized tutoring and the use of the new nursing simulation lab and other state-of-the-art equipment that is not available elsewhere.” She also identified the Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) course will continue to be offered on the Vandalia Campus. Additionally, that all Pre-LPN students would still have access on the Vandalia Campus to courses for completion of the LPN admission worksheet. She also confirmed that there would be no change to clinical experience locations for the LPN program as a result of consolidation if it were to occur. A savings of approximately $100,000 would result from consolidation if approved.
Kaskaskia College Dean of Nursing, Janet Garretson, explained to the crowd the changing role of LPN’s and acknowledged the consolidation to the KC main campus would allow for greater fiscal responsibility on the part of KC, and would not reduce the number of students accepted into KC’s LPN program. Only the location of courses will change. “LPN’s fill a necessary role in the provision of healthcare within the nursing community and will continue to be needed,” she added.
Dr. Dee Boswell, Vice Chair of the KC Board of Trustees, thanked the crowd for attending the meeting and stated, “KC values the commitment of the community and does not want to be at odds with supports. However, with the decline in admission to the LPN Program at Vandalia, we feel that this decision is fiscally responsible.” He added that with the Illinois budget impasse, the College has had to make tough decisions and these decisions are necessary in order to continue to provide services into the future.
Vandalia Mayor Rick Gottman urged the board to table the item at its board meeting scheduled for Monday in order to give the citizens of Vandalia time to come up with a plan to assist the College with the continuation of the program. He urged the College “to work smarter with less”, and stated that he will continue to support Kaskaskia College.
Individuals from education and healthcare acknowledged that fiscal challenges require hard decisions, as they had faced such situations in the recent past. Vandalia citizen, businessman and KC Foundation member, Jack Johnston was asked his opinion on the subject after being instrumental in the fundraising of the KC Vandalia Campus. Johnson replied, “I believe the administration and faculty at Kaskaskia are doing an outstanding job. I definitely do not like the picture that is presented tonight but I am more concerned with the future of the College as a whole, and I support what needs to be done. I am hopeful for future development of other programs at the KC Vandalia Campus.”
Quinn explained that the College Administration is making tough decisions but is confident that Kaskaskia will weather the fiscal storm, and continue to provide education to the citizens of District 501. She identified that it has been a very difficult year of reductions, but all decisions have been made to ensure the continued success of the College as a whole. “We encourage students to enroll and receive the quality education and training KC is known for.”