LLC president: Community college an affordable alternative

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Over the past decade a crisis has been brewing that has the potential to profoundly impact the very foundation of higher education. The crisis surrounds the precipitous rise of student loan debt. Over the past decade student loan debt in the United States has grown by 150 percent, topping out at $1.4 trillion. As Forbes magazine notes, “student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt – and higher than both credit cards and auto loans.”

More than 44 million U.S. residents, roughly 14 percent of the population, are saddled with student loan debt. The data demonstrates that student loan debt is forcing many individuals to delay major life events, like purchasing a home, getting married or having children.

Fortunately, college students in our area have the opportunity to create a future with a much brighter forecast. By choosing Lake Land College to start, or earn, their college degree their future life plans can include vacations, new cars, a walk down the aisle and mortgage payments. Lake Land College’s tuition and fees for two years are about $7,800, including textbooks. In contrast, the average cost for tuition and fees for the first two years of a bachelor’s degree from a public university is about $28,000. Add on the cost of housing, estimated at $20,000, and the purchasing of textbooks, estimated at $2,600 and the tab for those two years quickly escalates.

In essence, it’s a comparison of $50,000 to $8,000 for the first two years of a bachelor’s degree. That’s an enormous difference when thinking about the potential debt facing a college graduate. The gap grows wider when compared to private colleges or technical schools.

As an institution, we are committed to creating an environment where a student can earn a college education and enter the workforce with minimal debt. Two ways that we assist students are through Lake Land College Foundation scholarships and the Presidential Scholarship. All high school students have the opportunity to qualify for the Presidential Scholarship by graduating in the top 15 percent of their class or earning a 1240 on the SAT or 26 on the ACT. Each year, the Lake Land College Foundation awards nearly $400,000 in scholarships to deserving students. I encourage all who will be attending Lake Land this fall to complete the application by February 1 at 5 p.m. online at lakelandcollege.edu/scholarships/.

While we often hear requests from legislators and commitments from university presidents to minimize the cost of higher education, community colleges in Illinois have been living up to that commitment for more than 50 years. And, students are taking note. In Illinois, two-thirds of the undergraduate students enrolled in public higher education are attending community colleges. In our own Lake Land College district, community college is the top choice among high school graduates with more than 50 percent of the college-bound class of 2017 starting the fall semester as Lakers.

The higher education landscape continues to evolve with emerging technologies and heightened demands for workforce training. Community colleges are agents of change that readily adapt to the evolving needs of the communities we serve, yet one area we will hold steadfast is in our pledge to maintain opportunities for a quality, affordable college education.

Josh Bullock is the president of Lake Land College

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January 18, 2018 at 02:53PM

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LLC president: Community college an affordable alternative

Editorial: Help create a better place

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The start of a new year traditionally is a time when people look forward to the next 12 months with an expectation that things will be better than they were during the year just finished — maybe we should most people move into a new year that way.

The Commercial-News runs a weekly poll on its website, and last week’s question touched on the subject of the new year and readers’ opinions as to whether 2018 will be better, worse or about the same as it was during 2017.

The poll certainly isn’t scientific, and its 134 responses constitute a small percentage of county residents. But its results illustrate the kind of attitude that often can be heard expressed locally and that create barriers for the many people trying to move the community forward.

Of the poll’s responses, 59 percent think 2018 will be worse than 2017. It’s difficult to understand why such a level of pessimism exists.

The poll results aren’t the only evidence of such a negative attitude. Dr. Stephen Nacco, who became president of Danville Area Community College in 2017, noticed it, too. In an end-of-year letter to faculty and staff, he wrote:

“Why are Danvillians so surprised — and sometimes even suspicious — to learn that the outside world finds Danville and Vermilion County to be attractive and desirable? When outsiders like me come to Danville, what we discover is a close-knit and welcoming community that offers a high quality of life. This is a great place for growing up, raising a family, operating a business, vacationing, retiring, jogging, playing clarinet — whatever floats your boat (on Lake Vermilion, of course). …

“When my wife and I first set foot on Vermilion County soil, we knew that we had finally arrived at someplace special. The City of Danville has all of the creature comforts I’ve come to expect from having lived in northeastern cities, but with the small-town charm of Hooterville, Mayberry and Petticoat Junction all wrapped into one.”

If people from new to the community recognize its strengths and its potential, why do so many natives fail to do so? Is it they have just created a stereotype for the county and look only for the events that reinforce it? Or do they use that “it’s a terrible place” attitude to justify their own unhappiness and lack of success?

Yes, the county’s unemployment rate is high compared to other areas of Illinois, but their are plenty of job openings at local industries and businesses. From entry level to upper management, job opportunities are there. Many positions require training beyond high school, and DACC, Lakeview College of Nursing and area apprentice programs welcome students who want to learn the skills necessary to land a good job. And DACC is expanding its GED program to make it more convenient to those who want to complete their high school requirements.

There are neighborhoods laced with dilapidated buildings. But there are efforts under way to eliminate those eyesores.

The area battles drug issues every day, as do many communities large and small. Programs are available to those who want to break the hold drugs or alcohol have on them.

Many people within the community know what assets exist and work daily to strengthen them. They welcome anyone who wants to join in. Complaining won’t change a thing. If you don’t like the way things are going, step up and lend a hand.









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January 7, 2018 at 06:39AM

Editorial: Help create a better place

Editorial: Cheers to donors, Dietz, NPL

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Cheers

… to all the many people who donated blood Dec. 22 during the annual holiday blood drive at Grossinger Motors Arena.

The Pantagraph is among several groups that co-sponsor the event that is designed to collect blood during a traditionally slow donation time of the year.

The gift of blood is the gift of life, even more precious because it is given to a stranger.

Thanks to all who rolled up their sleeves to help.

Food for thought

… with word last week that Miller Park Zoo would expand its gift shop with a concession stand came a warning that the zoo would limit food to that bought at the zoo — no more homemade picnics or outside snacks will be allowed during hours the concession stand is open.

Granted, it’s hard to make money from concessions when outside food and beverages are allowed — any movie theater owner will tell you that — but the zoo is a city-owned facility near a park that encourages family get-togethers.

We hope Director Jay Tetzloff’s plan is broad enough to continue encouragement of family outings without costing an arm and a leg.

Cheers

… to the state of Illinois — yep, you read that right — for finding a way to resume the state’s food stamp program that went belly up just before Christmas because of a computer problem.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program supplies a vital need to the state’s hungry families. Yes, as with any program, there are people who cheat the system. But for the majority, the extra help means the difference between sustenance and going hungry.

Cheers

… to the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, for its selection of Illinois State University President Larry Dietz as its Legacy of Excellence winner.

Dietz will be honored during the chamber gala next spring. He and First Lady Marlene Dietz have returned ISU to the active, visible Twin City neighbor it was under the leadership of Al Bowman and Vic Boschini. The university is a partner in dozens of local endeavors, and the Dietzes are front and center at all sorts of university- and community-led events.

Congratulations, President Dietz. 

Cheers

… to a new program at Normal Public Library that is seeking volunteers to mentor children who need help with their technology skills.

Not every child has a caring adult who has time to spend with a young tech wizard and, while that is unfortunate, there are many volunteers willing and able to step into that role.

Cheers

… to Brandt Group of Companies, which hasn’t let grass grow under its feet as it jumps full speed into joining the local economy.

Brandt, which bought the former Kongskilde manufacturing site near Hudson, has asked for rezoning help for adjoining properties that it hopes to buy for future expansion needs.

 







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December 29, 2017 at 06:03AM

Editorial: Cheers to donors, Dietz, NPL

Tuition tax would hurt grad students

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As expressed in several recent letters to the editor and an excellent article by News-Gazette reporter Julie Wurth, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act passed by the House on Nov. 16 poses a grave threat to higher education in this country generally, and to the Champaign-Urbana economy specifically.

I would like to echo these concerns with my own story:

I’m a graduate student in the physics department at the University of Illinois, making a little more than the university’s reported living wage of $22,314/year for employees in my department. This is enough for me to live in this town, not to worry about where my next meal is coming from, and it is even enough to make modest payments on my student loans from my undergraduate education.

If this bill goes into effect and my tuition waiver ($18,056/year) becomes taxable income, I will no longer be able to attend the UI and live in Champaign-Urbana. I may no longer be able to attend graduate school anywhere, at least in this country.

Of course, the irony is lost on no one that the “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” would in fact raise taxes on our community and cut jobs in Champaign-Urbana.

What seems to be lost on Rep. Rodney Davis however, is that the passing of this bill means the forcing out of this country’s most educated citizens, the forcing out of graduate workers in C-U, and the forcing out of his own constituents.

KAI SHINBROUGH

Urbana

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December 7, 2017 at 10:48AM

Tuition tax would hurt grad students

Op-Ed, WIU President Jack Thomas, Dec. 6, 2017

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Dear University Community,
 
It is always my goal to be forthright and transparent in my communications with the University community. I have held 13 town hall meetings and two brown bag lunch discussions this semester alone, where individuals had the opportunity to voice their concerns and where I have answered questions regarding a variety of topics, including the University’s proposals during the negotiations process. 
 
Despite these efforts, it has been brought to my attention that there continues to be a great deal of disinformation regarding items proposed by the administration in negotiations. Allow me to set the record straight.
 
The Mediation Process
 
A current rumor circulating is that the administration has no intention of reaching a contract agreement and will declare an impasse in December and then implement the University’s last best offer. Let me be clear, we are not running out the clock. There is no deadline. The University is dedicated to moving forward. We are concentrating on mediation and a positive outcome for both sides.
 
Timetable for Negotiation
 
The University does not have a timetable for declaring an impasse. We intend to continue focusing on the mediation/negotiations process and working toward a contract resolution. To state otherwise is deceitful and misleading.
 
Faculty Teaching Workload
 
It has also been stated that the administration intends to impose mandatory increased faculty teaching workloads across the board. Concerns and misinformation about workload have persisted despite Dr. Russ Morgan and I stating on numerous occasions since June 2017 that the University has proposed keeping the status quo on this item. The University’s intention is for the faculty teaching workloads to remain as dictated by the last collective bargaining agreement. The administration is not insisting upon across the board mandatory increased faculty teaching workloads. Anyone who states otherwise is misstating the facts. UPI is the only party that has an on-the-record, formal proposal related to workload, in which they are requesting a reduction from the status quo.
 
Salary Minima Lanes/Professional Achievement Awards (PAAs)
 
Salary minima lanes have been characterized as being eliminated. However, this does not reflect the entirety of the conversation. The University’s on-the-record salary proposal included a revamped system that was comprised of enhancing salary increases at promotion and restructuring PAAs. The reality is that salary minima lane discussions continue between the parties.
 
Merit/Promotion/Salary
 
The University continues to provide merit and promotional increases for faculty. Despite the fact that the current faculty contract has expired, this year the University will provide approximately $1 million for promotions, minima lane salary increases, and PAAs. The University’s current on-the-record proposal is for faculty base salaries to remain at FY18 levels over the course of the contract.
 
Administrative Salaries
 
Another inaccuracy that has been shared is that administrators have received salary increases. This is based on misinterpreting the Fiscal Year 2017 WIU Budget Book. The Fiscal Year 2017 budget column does not reflect furloughs and voluntary pay decreases. Administrators have not received raises since FY15 (Fall 2014) and continue to participate in furloughs.
 
Moving Forward
 
I will reiterate that the University’s focus at this time is on mediation and hopes of attaining a positive outcome. This is where members of the University’s mediation team are concentrating their efforts.
 
In an effort to continue to be transparent, I will hold additional discussions during the Spring 2018 semester and Contract Administrator Russ Morgan will continue to provide updates to the University community. As we continue to work together, I am hopeful the administration and the UPI will arrive at an equitable and mutually beneficial resolution.
 
Sincerely,
 
Jack Thomas
President

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December 5, 2017 at 07:01PM

Op-Ed, WIU President Jack Thomas, Dec. 6, 2017

Slowik: Area Democrats talk finances, direct digs at Rauner

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I figured the panel of three state lawmakers, a Cook County commissioner and a Chicago alderman would talk about taxes, budgets and pension costs Thursday morning.

But with elections coming up, I should have known the five Democrats would be unable to resist making a few politically inflammatory remarks, including some digs directed at Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Reaction to a recent crime spree involving carjackings, high-speed chases and gun violence rounded out the discussion.

Saint Xavier University’s 12th annual legislative breakfast gave a few dozen residents, business leaders and other community members the chance to hear elected officials provide a public update on a range of issues.

Panelists were asked about state funding for higher education. Public universities, private institutions and community colleges survived more than two years without most of their anticipated state funding during the budget impasse, said state Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park.

“I believe the legislature will pass a responsible budget in 2018,” he said. “But will the governor sign it? The governor is a little erratic these days.”

Uncertainty over funding is hurting enrollments, but Governors State University in University Park saw its number of applications quadruple this year after passage of the first full-year state budget since 2014, Hastings said.

Funding cuts for higher education, public transportation and other areas, along with an income tax hike, were needed to restore balance to the state’s finances, said state Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago.

“We still have a rather large hole we have to climb out of,” Cunningham said. “I think next year’s budget will not be nearly as difficult as the last one … I don’t think the governor wants to be bogged down in Springfield when he’d rather be out campaigning.”

Some institutions are struggling with declining enrollments due to population shifts and other factors unrelated to the budget impasse, said state Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Chicago.

“There needs to be some transformative thinking at institutions,” Burke said. “They need to change in order to thrive.”

Cook County Commissioner Bill Daley, D-11th, said the budget recently approved by the county board cut 300 jobs and eliminated an additional 1,000 vacant positions. County leaders resorted to the cuts to reduce a budget deficit after negotiations with labor unions proved unsuccessful, he said.

“We asked unions to take furlough days,” Daley said. “We tried working with the unions. Unfortunately they did not cooperate.”

Panelists noted that Thursday marked the last day of the county’s widely unpopular penny-an-ounce “soda tax” on sweetened beverages.

“In all my years of public service I’ve never seen a tax that met so much opposition from the public and businesses,” Daley said. “I think we took a hit because we were the last of many new taxes.”

Moderator Ed Maloney, a retired state senator, asked about Rauner’s recent TV ads that feature governors of three neighboring states sarcastically thanking House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

“Madigan is one of the smartest individuals in government I know,” Daley said. “Previous governors knew the budget was their key responsibility. You could have a social agenda, but your sole purpose is to pass a budget.”

Hastings criticized Rauner for pushing anti-union “right-to-work” legislation, his unwillingness to compromise and political inexperience.

“This guy hasn’t stopped campaigning since day one,” Hastings said. “I try to be quiet about these things but I can’t help it. My district is the heart and soul of organized labor in the entire state of Illinois.”

Large numbers of tradesmen, teachers, public safety and other government workers live in the area, Hastings said. He said Rauner once invited him to the Governor’s Mansion to talk issues over beer and cigars.

“He asked me, ‘How do you feel about organized labor?'” Hastings recalled. “‘How do you feel about unions in the state of Illinois?’ as if he didn’t do his research about the district I represent.”

“‘Would you be willing when the time came to take a vote and make Illinois a right-to-work state or diminish workers’ rights?'” Hastings said the governor asked. “It’s almost like getting a slap in the face, right there, when it’s one-on-one. I didn’t know whether to go off the chain or whether to be calm.

“But I’m thinking to myself, ‘These people are my neighbors, these people are my family members, these people put food on the table for their children, and I’m going to vote against that? You’ve got to be out of your mind.’ It’s an example of his lack of leadership, and knowing who you’re talking to.”

I find it interesting that Democratic lawmakers have said Rauner tried to flip them, but when all was said and done it was a handful of Republican House members who defected from the party and voted with Democrats to override the governor’s budget veto.

In addition to jobs and taxes, public safety often becomes an issue raised in contentious elections. Chicago Alderman Matt O’Shea, D-19th, addressed a recent crime spree that plagued Mount Greenwood, Beverly, Morgan Park and other neighborhoods in November.

O’Shea elaborated on several email alerts his office recently sent to constituents about a series of armed robberies, carjackings and other crimes. Assailants terrorized community residents by pointing guns at them and stealing their property during broad daylight, he said.

Chicago police apprehended four juveniles in connection with the incidents, he said.

“These were 15- and 16-year-old Chicago Public School students,” O’Shea said. “They were arrested, then released to the custody of their families.

“It’s ironic they were arrested walking out of school,” he said. “It’s so frustrating. The Chicago Police Department did its job. These weren’t professionals, these were kids. Where were the parents? It all starts at home.”

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November 30, 2017 at 03:15PM

Slowik: Area Democrats talk finances, direct digs at Rauner

Slowik: Area Democrats talk finances, direct digs at Rauner

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I figured the panel of three state lawmakers, a Cook County commissioner and a Chicago alderman would talk about taxes, budgets and pension costs Thursday morning.

But with elections coming up, I should have known the five Democrats would be unable to resist making a few politically inflammatory remarks, including some digs directed at Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Reaction to a recent crime spree involving carjackings, high-speed chases and gun violence rounded out the discussion.

Saint Xavier University’s 12th annual legislative breakfast gave a few dozen residents, business leaders and other community members the chance to hear elected officials provide a public update on a range of issues.

Panelists were asked about state funding for higher education. Public universities, private institutions and community colleges survived more than two years without most of their anticipated state funding during the budget impasse, said state Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park.

“I believe the legislature will pass a responsible budget in 2018,” he said. “But will the governor sign it? The governor is a little erratic these days.”

Uncertainty over funding is hurting enrollments, but Governors State University in University Park saw its number of applications quadruple this year after passage of the first full-year state budget since 2014, Hastings said.

Funding cuts for higher education, public transportation and other areas, along with an income tax hike, were needed to restore balance to the state’s finances, said state Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago.

“We still have a rather large hole we have to climb out of,” Cunningham said. “I think next year’s budget will not be nearly as difficult as the last one … I don’t think the governor wants to be bogged down in Springfield when he’d rather be out campaigning.”

Some institutions are struggling with declining enrollments due to population shifts and other factors unrelated to the budget impasse, said state Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Chicago.

“There needs to be some transformative thinking at institutions,” Burke said. “They need to change in order to thrive.”

Cook County Commissioner Bill Daley, D-11th, said the budget recently approved by the county board cut 300 jobs and eliminated an additional 1,000 vacant positions. County leaders resorted to the cuts to reduce a budget deficit after negotiations with labor unions proved unsuccessful, he said.

“We asked unions to take furlough days,” Daley said. “We tried working with the unions. Unfortunately they did not cooperate.”

Panelists noted that Thursday marked the last day of the county’s widely unpopular penny-an-ounce “soda tax” on sweetened beverages.

“In all my years of public service I’ve never seen a tax that met so much opposition from the public and businesses,” Daley said. “I think we took a hit because we were the last of many new taxes.”

Moderator Ed Maloney, a retired state senator, asked about Rauner’s recent TV ads that feature governors of three neighboring states sarcastically thanking House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

“Madigan is one of the smartest individuals in government I know,” Daley said. “Previous governors knew the budget was their key responsibility. You could have a social agenda, but your sole purpose is to pass a budget.”

Hastings criticized Rauner for pushing anti-union “right-to-work” legislation, his unwillingness to compromise and political inexperience.

“This guy hasn’t stopped campaigning since day one,” Hastings said. “I try to be quiet about these things but I can’t help it. My district is the heart and soul of organized labor in the entire state of Illinois.”

Large numbers of tradesmen, teachers, public safety and other government workers live in the area, Hastings said. He said Rauner once invited him to the Governor’s Mansion to talk issues over beer and cigars.

“He asked me, ‘How do you feel about organized labor?'” Hastings recalled. “‘How do you feel about unions in the state of Illinois?’ as if he didn’t do his research about the district I represent.”

“‘Would you be willing when the time came to take a vote and make Illinois a right-to-work state or diminish workers’ rights?'” Hastings said the governor asked. “It’s almost like getting a slap in the face, right there, when it’s one-on-one. I didn’t know whether to go off the chain or whether to be calm.

“But I’m thinking to myself, ‘These people are my neighbors, these people are my family members, these people put food on the table for their children, and I’m going to vote against that? You’ve got to be out of your mind.’ It’s an example of his lack of leadership, and knowing who you’re talking to.”

I find it interesting that Democratic lawmakers have said Rauner tried to flip them, but when all was said and done it was a handful of Republican House members who defected from the party and voted with Democrats to override the governor’s budget veto.

In addition to jobs and taxes, public safety often becomes an issue raised in contentious elections. Chicago Alderman Matt O’Shea, D-19th, addressed a recent crime spree that plagued Mount Greenwood, Beverly, Morgan Park and other neighborhoods in November.

O’Shea elaborated on several email alerts his office recently sent to constituents about a series of armed robberies, carjackings and other crimes. Assailants terrorized community residents by pointing guns at them and stealing their property during broad daylight, he said.

Chicago police apprehended four juveniles in connection with the incidents, he said.

“These were 15- and 16-year-old Chicago Public School students,” O’Shea said. “They were arrested, then released to the custody of their families.

“It’s ironic they were arrested walking out of school,” he said. “It’s so frustrating. The Chicago Police Department did its job. These weren’t professionals, these were kids. Where were the parents? It all starts at home.”

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November 30, 2017 at 03:15PM

Slowik: Area Democrats talk finances, direct digs at Rauner