Conference on Community Colleges to Address Financial Challenges
By Robert Schroeder
The good news for Illinois community colleges? They probably won't lose any funding in the next state budget.
The bad news? There's no guarantee that funding will ever be paid out anyways. Illinois is a whopping $400 million in arrears to the state's community colleges, and the balance sheet is not about to flip.
National Louis University's Community College Leadership Doctoral Program hosts its annual conference "Innovation and Change in the Community College: Research to Practice" on Saturday, May 7, and the focus could not be more relevant. With state universities raising tuition, residents are turning to community colleges as an affordable alternative, but community colleges are faced with the prospect of hiking tuition rates to match missing state funds.
"We're hoping through the conference that campuses will see best practices that will allow them to do more with less," said Dennis Haynes, Ph.D., assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. "Innovation doesn't always require money; it requires a paradigm shift in the way you go about doing things."
The conference will feature dissertations from graduating doctoral students ranging from best business practices to veterans affairs. Previous conferences have highlighted the stories of female Mexican-American community college presidents and support for returning veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr. Karen Hunter Anderson, Ph.D., Vice President for Adult Education and Institutional Support at the Illinois Community College Board, will deliver the keynote address.
Chicagoland community colleges including the City Colleges of Chicago, Moraine Valley Community College, College of Lake County, Kankakee Community College, Prairie State Community College, Joliet Junior College, Heartland Community College and Oakland Community College will be represented at the conference.
Each college will be searching for answers to Haynes' question: how to do more with less. Haynes expects that at least some, if not all, of the $400 million the state owes to community colleges will never be paid. When additional costs are passed to students through raises in tuition, the trickle-down effects are widespread. Haynes says community colleges are a significant economic driver nationally, and reducing the accessibility of community college education can impact the economic progression of entire communities.
With the focus on innovation, Haynes says the timing of the conference is perfect for doctoral students ready to lead on campus.
"[Students] learn about areas they never thought they would or would have been exposed to," Haynes said. "They are able to learn from one another and they can bring these things back to their respective campuses."