LETTER: Black Hawk College at crossroads


Editor, Register-Mail: As another election approaches on April 4, one of the most crucial races for our area is the Black Hawk College Board of Trustees race. There are two seats open and three candidates.

For nearly two years, BHC administration has been cutting staff, faculty, programs and courses. It stands to reason that the lack of state funding means the board of trustees has to make some tough decisions. But, the trend so far has been short-sighted and has halted any chance of enrollment increases.

We need board members who will listen to ideas and concerns from students, staff and all local residents. We need board members with the tenacity to turn things around. We need board members with a vision of growth for the entire college.

I know Steve Spivey and Jon Looney are the two best candidates for the BHC Board. Both have positive ties and experiences with the college and feel the entire district needs to be moving in a different direction.

Steve Spivey served as chair of the board at Black Hawk and provided exemplary leadership when the college was strong, stable and growing. He operates Spivey Angus Farms near New Windsor and is chair of the Black Hawk College East Campus Foundation.

For several years, Jon Looney was the director of Information Technology for Black Hawk College, so he understands the college and its campuses from the ground up. Jon has a real passion for student success and believes in fostering student learning from the first day on campus until graduation.

Black Hawk College is at a crossroads: the college can continue declining, or it can rebound to increased enrollment and greater opportunities for all our residents. By electing Steve Spivey and Jon Looney, voters will be adding experienced, energetic, and knowledgeable leadership onto the college board.

Be sure to vote for Steve Spivey and Jon Looney on April 4. — Eldon R. Aupperle, professor emeritus, Black Hawk College, Toulon



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March 27, 2017 at 05:20PM

LETTER: Black Hawk College at crossroads

Editorial: Higher ed leaders want, need state budget


When it comes to the ongoing state budget stalemate, just about every group has a story to tell.

Social service agencies, local school districts, businesses that go unpaid for months on end, public employee unions — the list goes on.

Throw higher education onto the pile, too.

It is obvious that higher education, as an institution, is worried.

As was made clear at a recent Herald & Review Editorial Board meeting, it’s not so much that colleges and universities are going to shut their doors. They are not.

Rather, it is their very real inability to plan for the future that has university presidents such as Illinois State University’s Larry Dietz both concerned and deeply frustrated.

As Dietz told the board, “If the impasse continues, at some point a higher education disaster will occur.”

What does that mean? No one can really say — and that’s the issue.

As Dietz and other officials representing the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education — including Illinois Wesleyan University President Eric Jensen, Heartland Community College President Rob Widmer and Southern Illinois University System President Randy Dunn — all pointed out, the frustration is not having a budget.

Dietz said passage of a budget — even one with huge cuts — “would represent stability. … The worst thing is not knowing.”

Institutions of higher learning, they said, are willing to adjust to the changing financial environment, but they can’t determine that unless they know — year in and year out — the level of state support they’re going to get.

A good example that affects both public and private institutions is the Monetary Award Program (MAP grants), the financial aid that literally allows thousands of students to attend  college.

Lack of a state budget means not knowing how much funding will be available for MAP grants, but none of the presidents is open to the idea of suspending the program to save money.

That, they said, runs counter to one of their core principles — providing a quality education to as many students who want one.  

As Dunn put it, “We’re not going to do that to our students and region … We’re not going to play that card.”

Rather, they want to see Gov. Bruce Rauner — whom they clearly see as part of the problem — and the General Assembly to start seeing higher education as an investment.

They correctly point out that their institutions are economic engines in their own communities, but argue that higher education is not seen that way at the state level despite the fact that they are producing future employees and entrepreneurs that are vital if Illinois is to grow.

Without fair funding, said Widmer, students are not getting a full learning experience — class sizes rise, staffing shortages occur and schools cannot afford proper equipment.

Then there is the “brain drain” issue whereby search firms sweep into Illinois to lure away top faculty and staff with offers of better times in other states.

Higher education leaders are ready to make decisions — in many cases, very tough ones.

But they cannot because no one in Springfield is willing to do the same.

As we have stated many times before, that lack of leadership, that inability or unwillingness to make tough decisions is not only unfair. It is a travesty.

Don’t miss another special section.

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March 19, 2017 at 12:34AM

Editorial: Higher ed leaders want, need state budget

Illinois lawmakers’ budget impasse needs quick fix – Daily Southtown – Chicago Tribune


If Illinois lawmakers’ inaction, bickering and stubbornness wasn’t so sad and pathetic, we’d be laughing.

While he was referencing the verbal feud between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner, Chance the Rapper may have provided an eloquent summation of the entire Illinois budget debacle with his recent tweet: “This whole (expletive) thing is embarrassing to be honest.”

Hear! Hear!

Illinois lawmakers’ refusal to do their jobs and pass a state budget has real victims. As lawmakers play politics and dawdle, real people are bearing the brunt of the gridlock.

Their inaction is causing Illinois students of all ages and grade levels to be among those caught in the political crossfire.

Across the state, public universities have navigated the budget impasse by cutting jobs, imposing furlough days and slashing programs, among other things. School officials say they’ve about cut to the quick.

Governors State University has announced a tuition increase of 15 percent, along with plans to cut 22 degrees. Northeastern Illinois University, meanwhile, just announced 1,100 employees will be taking unpaid furlough days, and about 300 student aides will find themselves unemployed during that time.

That’s on top of GSU losing 70 percent of its state funding in the first year of the budget stalemate. Last year, the school’s state funding amounted to half of what it normally receives.

A full year of undergraduate classes will be increasing by more than $1,200 to about $9,390, officials said.

And it’s not just GSU and Northeastern who are grappling with financial woes. So are public schools across the state.

The Chicago Public Schools system is more than $200 million in the hole.

How’s this good for Illinois, exactly?

Earlier this week, Rauner accused Democrats, led by House Speaker Michael Madigan, of taking part in a “coordinated activity” aimed at causing a crisis that will halt state government. We wish we could accuse Rauner and state lawmakers of coordinating their activities, but in an effort aimed at ending Illinois’ political embarrassment.

Madigan’s longtime spokesman fired back, saying the governor’s claims were “delusional babble” made out of desperation. Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the attorney general weighed in saying that Rauner needs to “stop the baseless finger-pointing and do his job.”

Agreed. But he’s not the only one.

Enough’s enough. One-line zingers may seem cool to the parties who are lobbing them, but they don’t get us anywhere. Nor do they seem so cool to the rest of us who’ve had to endure this drivel.

Ridiculous demands and stubborn obstructionism haven’t gotten us anywhere.

Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno valiantly tried and failed to reach a so-called “grand bargain,” but Republicans derailed the plan.

Each day without a budget is costing the state about $11 million. That’s not a drop in the bucket. That’s real money, and it adds up. Fast.

Without a budget deal soon, GSU President Elaine Maimon says, more cuts could be on the horizon.

GSU is still planning to pay for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants, which help out low-income students, Maimon said.

“We put students first at Governors State,” she told the Daily Southtown.

We wish Illinois legislators felt the same way.

The Southtown recently spoke with a 26-year-old single mother who’s attending classes in health administration about the financial strain the GSU tuition hike will cause her.

“I’m a single mother, so it’s a burden,” she said. “It’s going to push me back a little bit, but I’m going to have to work around it, I guess.”

If she can work around it, lawmakers can work through their differences and do what’s right for the state. Now.

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March 10, 2017 at 08:33PM

Illinois lawmakers’ budget impasse needs quick fix – Daily Southtown – Chicago Tribune

You can’t ‘turn around’ Illinois by wrecking the state’s public universities


On March 3, the Tribune published the article “Hundreds of NEIU students to lose jobs as all employees take required furlough days” online. We should also consider the broader effects of furloughs at NEIU and at the state’s other regional universities, which are now facing a second year without adequate funding.

Last year’s furloughs at NEIU resulted in a 20 percent income drop — one workday per week — for faculty and staff who already live close to the bone. More important, it reduced instructional time for students by about one-sixth.

Students have contracted with the university to provide a service that the state is preventing the university from providing, encouraging students to look elsewhere for quality education. Enrollment at Chicago State University has dropped 50 percent over the last few years; this fall, the university enrolled only 86 freshman.

Higher education is one of the state’s most important engines of economic opportunity. One cannot “turn around” Illinois by wrecking the state’s public universities.

— Zachary Schiffman, Chicago



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March 6, 2017 at 07:54AM

You can’t ‘turn around’ Illinois by wrecking the state’s public universities

Our View: Rock Valley College will continue to fill vital role in community


Rock Valley College is stable, accredited and not going anywhere. Credits students earn will continue to transfer to four-year universities. RVC will continue to offer a first-rate education at an affordable price. It will continue to meet the critical needs of the region.

None of that will change as the administration and trustees make difficult decisions to keep the college running as well for the next 50 years as it has for the past 50.

Trustees will consider laying off an unknown number of professors and instructors when they meet Tuesday. No one likes making these reductions in force, but they are necessary as officials work to fill holes in RVC’s budget.

The biggest hole has been created by the state of Illinois, which is supposed to provide the college with $6.6 million annually. It would take more than financial expertise — it would take magic — to balance a budget without layoffs and a fraction of the promised state funds.

Reductions in force are ugly, but common in education. They haven’t been used at RVC, but RIFs have often been used by local public schools trying to balance their books. Some of the laid-off teachers wind up coming back to work for their schools and it would not be surprising if that happens with the Rock Valley layoffs as well. Still, there will be people left without jobs.

The challenge for trustees, who are unpaid, is to ensure layoffs have minimal effect on the classroom. They have to ensure that limited resources are used as effectively as possible.

Rock Valley gives students a better chance to succeed in life. RVC has opened the doors for people who would not have had a crack at a college education.

It has opened some of those doors though partnerships. Rock Valley expanded its aviation program to accommodate the demand for workers at a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at Chicago Rockford International Airport; it partnered with OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center to expand the nursing program; it partnered with Northern Illinois University to offer engineering degrees; and it partnered with the Rockford Register Star to create RVC Downtown, a location that has made the college more accessible for Rockford residents who live west of the Rock River.

Rock Valley College has a vital role in the life of this community. That will not change despite the current financial struggles.

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February 27, 2017 at 10:33AM

Our View: Rock Valley College will continue to fill vital role in community

Editorial: Don’t push 2nd CSU campus when first is in trouble


Fix the existing campus first.

Chicago State University — yes, the one that had to close its cafeteria for several weeks, that limited its library hours, that needs $59 million in maintenance — is thinking about building a second campus on the West Side.

We actually understand impulse. Chicago State, on the city’s South Side, historically has served an important role in local higher education, offering a degree to working people very close to home. To offer that same chance so close to home on the West Side, too, is a laudable goal — maybe someday.

But it makes no sense for Chicago State to even think about expanding to a second campus when its first campus is doing so poorly — and when help, in the form of much better management, might finally be on the way.

Enrollment has dropped by more than half since 2010, and now stands at just 3,600 students. In the fall, only 86 new, full-time freshmen enrolled. The most recent president got a $600,000 severance as he left after just nine months. Finances — further imperiled by a whistle-blower lawsuit — are so bad that Chicago State’s accreditation is at risk.


Some of Chicago State’s problems are of its own making, but other problems can be chalked up to the ax that Springfield has taken to public higher education. Funding for Illinois public higher education has declined for two decades, a trend that accelerated with the election of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who called for a cut in state funding of more than 30 percent and has presided over a drastic cut in state support. As state funding around the county rose by 3.4 percent in the past fiscal year, Illinois has done nothing but slash.

That’s not a fiscal environment that supports a push to build a new campus, especially for a school like Chicago State, which has limited non-state resources and was forced to declare a fiscal emergency last year.

Former CPS CEO Paul Vallas speaks with reporters after the City Club of Chicago's debate "Chicago Public Schools: Is Bankruptcy Inevitable?" on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media

Former CPS CEO Paul Vallas | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media

Earlier this year, however, Rauner also did CSU a big favor. He appointed an eight-member advisory board and four new highly qualified university trustees, including Paul Vallas, a former Chicago Public Schools CEO. It’s a good team that might just get something good done. And we would hope the first thing they do is mothball this second campus idea.

That decision actually should have been made years ago. But, as the Chicago Tribune reported this week, Chicago State has spent at least $370,000 planning for the new campus on property in the West Side’s Homan Square neighborhood; they have even chosen an architect. Nearly eight years ago, the state agreed to pony up $40 million for the second campus, although so far it only has coughed up $1 million, in 2011. The grant officially expired in 2015, but Rauner and school officials have asked that it be renewed.

Vallas, for one, seems to get it. He told the Tribune if a second campus opens, it would have to pay its way without much help from the state. He also said Chicago State would first have to do a lot of work to increase enrollment significantly.

As the nation moves toward a knowledge economy, higher education will play an increasingly significant role. A campus that helps young people on the West Side move into the knowledge economy could be a powerful asset for the city and the state.

But at this time — when Chicago State’s flagship campus is in terrible shape and other public universities worry about keeping their doors open — it makes no sense.

In Springfield on Wednesday, Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas warned, “We are on the verge of a complete collapse of the Illinois higher education system.”

Moreover, the crisis in higher education is “sending our intellectual capital our of the state,” Thomas said.

We need to keep that intellectual capital in Illinois. And one way to do it is to make Chicago State an institution that impressively fulfills its mission before spending money on opening yet another campus.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com

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February 8, 2017 at 11:05AM

Editorial: Don’t push 2nd CSU campus when first is in trouble