Moraine Board might increase tech and tuition because of budget stalemate

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

The Moraine Valley Community College Board of Trustees discussed the possibility of raising technology and tuition rates to help offset the ongoing budget stalemate in Springfield.

The board made the proposal during a meeting held Saturday morning at the Palos Hills campus. A vote may be taken as early as next month.

Dr. Sylvia M. Jenkins, president of Moraine Valley Community College, said that the school is in good shape. However, the problems that are affecting other local colleges are real, added Jenkins.

“We are there right now,” she said. “Some colleges will have to close programs and some teachers will have to be let go.”

Jenkins said she recently talked to two local legislators about where this is all leading to in terms of negotiations in Springfield. She was not encouraged by their response.

“Right now, it seems pessimistic” she said. “Currently, we are OK. But Moraine maybe OK today but that can change.”

Jenkins added that a bill sponsored by state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) to provide for funding for colleges and universities was vetoed by Gov. Rauner. Robert Sterkowitz, board treasurer, provided an overview of the Moraine’s financial situation and how they are managing with no funding from the state.

“We have been preparing for this for a while,” said Sterkowtiz. “We didn’t want to go there, but we are getting there.”

The treasurer said that funding could be shifted to provide more revenue sources in the short term.

“The problem with that is that we have allotted money for a budget over a few years, “said Joseph Murphy, chairman of the Moraine Board. “Now because we have to move the funding around it makes it more difficult to make decisions on our budget later on.”

Murphy said a tuition hike was inevitable.

“A tuition increase was necessary,” said Murphy. “Everybody keeps asking me about (funding for) rainy days. Well, now it’s kind of pouring.”

Sterkowitz said that he anticipated the college will spend $3 million less than the $95 million that was approved, unless a budget settlement occurs. In the interim, Sterkowitz said Moraine will be able to manage despite the budget shortfall.

“We don’t want to be just another local community college,” said Sterkowitz. “We have a lot of offer. We have a large amount of online classes.”

Sterkowitz said the FY2016 budget for Moraine is $95,237,029. The estimated 2017 budget is $93,845,502, if no settlement can be reached. The estimated figures for 2018 are $95,908,357, and for 2019 the figures are $97,097,413, according to Sterkowitz. The 2020 estimated budget is $98,309,575.

“The main issue is state funding,” said Sterkowitz. “State colleges beginning the fiscal year could see a 30 percent reduction in state funding.”

Sterkowitz added that waivers are applied to the the top 11 percent of high school graduates who maintain a 3.5 grade point average. Scholarships are also provided for student-athletes.

“We make cuts every day,” said Sterkowitz. “But there is only so much you can cut.”

Some colleges have closed their childcare center due to the lack of funding, which is something Jenkins would like to avoid.

“The problem with that is that students who have children in childcare centers that close end up dropping out of school,” said Jenkins. “We don’t want to do that.”

Moraine can hold a maximum of 72 children in their childcare facility. The state has reduced funding for the centers by 30 percent in 2016.

“We want to keep it affordable because we have had the governor make some changes,” said Jenkins. “Some students who once qualified for childcare funding no longer qualify.”

Jenkins did add that the 30 percent reduction figures are just an estimate.

“You’ve seen what seven and a half months has done to some schools,” said Sterkowitz. “If this goes on for another year, some schools will shut down.”

The meeting began with a presentation by Kam Sanghvi, who co-chairs the Strategic Technology Plan. Sanghvi argued for the $3 increase for technology. Sanghvi said that costs continue to rise and WiFi improvements have to be made.

“Our hope is that students can access information through WiFi off campus,” said Sanghvi. “The students’ major complaint is WiFi.”

Murphy said that teachers need additional training. Sanghvi said that various levels training are available on a one-one-one basis.

Murphy said that technology is expensive but teachers and students cannot afford to fall back. The board, after some debate over costs, stated that they tentatively would approve a $3 hike from $7 to $10 for each semester for technological studies.

Board members also mentioned that the Learning Management System Review team recommended that Canvas by Instructure replace the existing Blackboard Learn web system. The board was in agreement that Canvas would best meet the current needs of the students, faculty, staff and campus community. The board approved using Canvas at their November meeting.