I ran for Parkland College Board of Trustees because I want to do absolutely everything I can to end the budget crisis, rehire our talented faculty, and increase student enrollment.
The gridlock in Springfield over the state budget is having a devastating impact on Parkland.
Because I am currently a full-time, tenured professor at Parkland, I will abstain from all votes related to personnel reports, but I strongly believe I bring an invaluable perspective to the table as someone who has regular contact with our students and understands first-hand the challenges facing our faculty and staff.
State of Illinois’ Budget Impasse
In general the funding for community colleges like Parkland come from a combination of state funds, local taxes, and student tuition. Ideally, each revenue source would contribute one-third to the budget. Since the budget impasse began in 2015, the State’s contribution has dwindled down to minuscule levels. Right now about 38% of Parkland’s budget comes from local taxes. Meanwhile, about 55% of the budget comes from student tuition and fees. And tuition and fees are set to go up!
Reliance on State Funding
Because the State has become an unreliable partner, Parkland’s president and board of trustees have decided to move to a budget plan that does not rely on state funding. In order for this to work, we may need to lay off people, cut programs and student services, increase local taxes, raise tuition and fees, increase enrollment, or obtain funding from other sources.
No More Downsizing at Parkland
Further reductions in faculty or staff or students services such as athletics will likely erode the safety nets and support systems students need to be academically successful.
Thus far, Parkland has already made deep cuts. There are faculty, staff, and administrative positions that have not been filled. The adult education program was suspended. Major cuts were made to the theater, planetarium, art gallery, athletics department, community education, and the child development center. Furthermore, there are significantly fewer part-time faculty members teaching classes.
No Property Tax Increases
As a taxpayer myself, I would prefer the State re-invest in public higher education rather than expect students and taxpayers to shoulder the burden brought on by the budget impasse. However, I am not opposed to a referendum asking taxpayers whether or not they are willing to increase taxes to support Parkland College.
No Tuition Increases
I am absolutely opposed to raising tuition and fees. Parkland already has one of the highest community college tuition rates in the state. If tuition and fees are increased further, students will certainly suffer.
The hardest hit by the budget impasse is the poorest college students in the State who rely on MAP grants to fund their education. Many of these students do not have the money or the ability to attend college out-of-state like many other students have already done. For most of these students, the community college is the only option.
Yes for Increasing Enrollments
Parkland needs to strategically address the out-migration of students and connect with community leaders, educators, and businesses to provide better wrap-around support.
Today’s community college students are a wider variety of ages, more often independent adults with their own children and/or spouses, employed at least part-time, and simply trying to earn a college degree while trying to navigate the twists and turns of college life.
In order to help students succeed academically, I believe we should have a Community Services Mall located in or near the Student Union. The services should include small, store-front shops such as a grocery store, a health clinic, a pharmacy, a day care center, a bank, and a legal clinic. All services will also offer informational seminars to Parkland students. See the details below. The community services mall is designed to address the unmet needs of Parkland students.
- Parkland Market – grocery store that regularly serves fresh produce, deli meat, and bakery items along with non-perishable food items at convenient prices; seminars on smart shopping and nutrition
- Parkland Diner – serves breakfast and lunch items like hamburgers, french fries, club sandwiches, milkshakes, and pies; waitstaff employed; quick and easy cooking seminars for students on a budget
- Parkland Rides – shop that rents bikes to students, encourages students to walk more or use other forms of low cost transportation; seminars on ways to reduce carbon footprint and be better stewards of the environment
- Parkland Housing Center – places students in affordable, convenient housing based on students’ budgets and needs; seminars on getting along with roommates and managing housing costs
- Parkland Health Clinic – doctors, physician’s assistants, and nurses on staff to see students for a variety of illnesses; seminars on health issues facing the community
- Parkland Eye Clinic – a doctor on staff to give student’s eye exams and help students order eyewear or contacts; seminars on maintaining healthy eyes
- Parkland Mental Health Clinic – psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors on staff to see students who are experiencing mental health issues or need help managing long term mental health issues; substance abuse counseling and grief counseling offered; seminars on destigmatizing mental illness, managing stress and anxiety while in college and life in general
- Parkland Dental Clinic – a dentist and several hygienists on staff to provide students with basic dental care and cleanings; seminars on oral health issues
- Parkland Pharmacy – working in conjunction with the health clinics, students will be able to fill prescriptions and purchase other necessary medicines and health items along with free birth control
- Parkland Day Care Center – child care center for Parkland students who have young children between the ages of 0-12; expanded periodically to allow parents to drop off children when their children have days off from school; parenting seminars on free services for children in the community, homework help, building literacy and numeracy in young children, and child development concerns
- Parkland College Bank – financial institution where students can open an account, apply for credit cards, and get personal advising on budgeting, financial aid, credit card debt, investments, etc.; seminars on budgeting, credit scores, financial planning, etc.
- Parkland Legal Clinic – law firm housed on campus that offers students legal advice, recommends lawyers, advises students on rights, court proceedings, statues, etc.; seminars on citizen’s rights and responsibilities, legal headaches to avoid, and demystifying legal jargon
- Parkland Job Center – places students with local employers who offer students regular hours and reasonable pay; seminars on job skills
Yes to Revolutionizing Learning in Higher Education
I believe we are using an outdated model of higher education. Attending fifty-minute lectures three times a week is not as effective for learning as it used to be. I have a wide range of students—some who desperately need stability and security in their lives and some who simply don’t know how to learn. We need a revival of our teaching and a better understanding of how students’ brains work. We need more professional development. For that to happen, we need a state budget, so we can reinstate travel and professional development funds.