Kish College’s president has overseen several changes in 1st year at helm

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MALTA – Kishwaukee College plans to continue its focus on student success in 2017, with President Laurie Borowicz entering her second year at the two-year college.

The college’s board picked Borowicz to lead the school after predecessor Tom Choice retired at the end of 2015. Borowicz left her position as vice president of student services for Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, Wisconsin, to become Kish College’s fifth president in January 2016.

Two months later, the board announced a layoff plan to help the college plug an anticipated budget shortfall. The 24 layoffs were the first reduction in force in the college’s history and came as the school struggled with the fallout from the state budget standoff and declining enrollment. Later in the year, the college lost a number of administrators to other jobs. Among them were two chief financial officers.

Other changes followed. The college slashed the number of athletic scholarships it offers, deciding instead to recruit more student-athletes from within the district’s boundaries, which encompass most of DeKalb County, including the communities of DeKalb, Sycamore, Genoa, Kingston, Kirkland, Waterman and Shabbona, along with the Rochelle area in Ogle County and part of Lee County.

In September, the board approved a $34.5 million spending plan that was $3.2 million less than the previous fiscal year.

Borowicz is optimistic about the college’s future and pleased with what she and the board have accomplished in the past year.

“What I’m most proud of at Kishwaukee College is truly starting to change the culture,” she said. “I believe we are changing the culture of this college, and everyone understands that we’re going to make decisions based on what’s in the best interests of our students.”

She said the cultural shift will take time and won’t always be easy, but that, ultimately, it will simplify the decision-making process.

In her second year, Borowicz said the college’s focus will remain on students’ success, including by working with career and technical education students to make sure they find jobs, and helping undecided students find direction.

“I really want to work on strengthening our programming to help our undecided students,” she said. “Those are things we’ve talked about over the course of the year, but other things have been the priority.”

Borowicz said the college also plans to move forward with interest-based bargaining practices with its unions. Interest-based bargaining was used to reach a contract agreement with the college’s support staff union in December and will be employed in upcoming talks with the faculty union. The union’s contract expires at the end of June. The last negotiation saw the union on the brink of a strike when a deal was reached in January 2015.

College board Chairman Robert Johnson praised Borowicz’s leadership.

“She stepped into a whirlwind with the state budget impasse and the reduction in force,” he said. “As a board, we’ve been more than pleased.”

Johnson said he had a good working relationship with Borowicz and was confident in her leadership of the college’s staff, whose work he also lauded.

Even so, challenges remain. The college’s enrollment is 17 percent below where it was in 2007, Borowicz said.

“There are many factors that can be attributed to the decline in enrollment, including a rebounding economy,” she said. “Enrollment and the unemployment rate have an inverse relationship.”

State funding is another issue. The college – which Johnson described as “lean” – wants to be less reliant on the state for funding. Without raising property taxes, that leaves tuition increases and philanthropy to bridge the gap.

The board is working closely with the school’s foundation to help students, especially those who rely on state Monetary Award Program grants to pay for school.

“This is an outstanding college,” he said. “We’re in a very good place.”

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Kish College’s president has overseen several changes in 1st year at helm

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