Photo by Matt Moss
Parkland College is slowly recovering and gradually moving towards financial stability through efforts to separate from the state, says Parkland’s President Tom Ramage, who is working to achieve this end.
“Illinois, right now, is in what’s called a ‘lame duck’ state,” Ramage says. “Parkland is trying to move away from relying on state funding and function…on its own.”
According to Ramage, it is because of this move towards more independence that Parkland is able to keep its students from being directly impacted, and if a budget is to be passed then the money will go directly towards bettering services available for students.
“Imagine that you lost nine percent of all the money you had. You’d definitely feel it, but it wouldn’t be devastating,” he said. “You’d go on doing less things or finding different ways to do them; this is what Parkland [has] gone through.” (Entire quote pretty good; pull quote?)
Parkland’s budget cuts were not “devastating,” but they did change Parkland’s circumstances, including its decrease in staff and the start of Parkland’s move towards being less reliant on state funding.
Ramage believes that after the major changes in financing last year, Parkland can slowly start moving away from the agitations originally brought on by the budget crisis and closer to the well-oiled machine it once was.
Over the last year, Parkland incorporated many plans to cut spending in order for students not to feel the detriment the lack of budget has caused.
“Incentivized retirement” is an initiative Parkland put in place earlier this year to ease the drain on Parkland’s coffers.
“[F]aculty that was not eligible for early retirement—so younger than the five-year window for it—were offered an incentive, or a buyout…of $25 thousand, or  percent [of their salary]—whichever was higher—in order to retire early.”
Many members of faculty has taken the opportunity. Last year, 47 staff members left the institution, but Ramage says not all of them were because of the incentivized retirement initiative. However, he says it did provide a boon to Parkland’s financial situation.
“That 47 number is the total number of people that have departed the institution for any number of reasons—retirement, resignation, transferring into a different job that we didn’t replace…the one that they left…or voluntary separation,” Ramage said in March.
A total of 18 Parkland employees made use of the program.
The incentivized retirement solution was first implemented late last year and is still an option available to Parkland’s staff, but it is not expected that as many will take the option this year, Ramage believes.
Part of this tactic was that Parkland would not refill all positions lost, unless there was a dire need, so rationing the amount of employees hired was an immense help with the economic adjustment Parkland was forced into, Ramage says.
Parkland’s board of trustees voted in February to raise tuition costs by 11.7 percent, and Ramage says this sort of measure will not happen again for the foreseeable future.
Ramage believes gradually increasing tuition price yearly is a better solution than occasional large hikes. However, it is because of the unusual increase in tuition costs last year that Parkland is able to continue its small yearly price increase of $5-7 per credit hour.
Ramage ensures students that they need not worry about Parkland’s past fiscal troubles and, because of active financial reforms, the college will continue to be successful and provide services and education without constraint.
He believes the school’s programs have and will continue to protect students from the repercussions the Illinois’ budget crisis has caused and that students can continue with their education and services available without constraints or limits.
The state of Illinois has been going through an economic deadlock as of late, because of what experts say are the opposing views of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and the majority of Democratic officials representing the state and its districts in the legislature.
It is because of said deadlock that many schools, colleges, and students have not been getting the services and help they normally would receive.
The standstill amongst officials led to no state budget being passed, forcing many schools, along with Parkland, into financially fending for themselves.