Education

SWIC approves belt-tightening measures in wake of state budget standoff

The school is owed $3 million in state and federal funds that haven’t come to it because of the state’s budget stalemate.
The school is owed $3 million in state and federal funds that haven’t come to it because of the state’s budget stalemate. BND

The Southwestern Illinois College Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved belt-tightening measures to help the school weather the state’s budget crisis.

The board approved a plan to limit non-mission critical expenditures and reduce spending -- but to keep services open -- through June 16, 2016 in the school’s Adult Education program and its Programs and Services for Older Persons department as well as at its East St. Louis Community College Center.

But school leaders announced Wednesday that grant assistance for students who receive state Money Award Program grants would be suspended starting in the spring semester until SWIC received money owed by the state for the fall semester and got notice about the state’s funding plans for fiscal 2016.

According to SWIC spokesman Mike Fleming, the school is currently owed about $3 million in state and federal funding that hasn’t been forwarded because of Illinois’ budget crisis.

Fleming said the cost-cutting measures are expected to save about $1.5 million. That would cover the state’s match if it chose not to pay what was previously promised to community colleges.

SWIC Director of Financial Aid and Student Employment Robert Tebbe said the suspension of the MAP grant program shouldn’t cause students to drop out of school.

He said the majority of SWIC studnets rely on federal Pell grants to pay for their tuition and that, by notifying them early, school leaders hope to help spring students find alternative funding sources.

Trustee Richard Roehrkasse said the state community college system is in jeopardy because of the budget standoff between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democrats in the General Assembly.

“Some community colleges are getting down to dire straits,” Roehrkasse said. “At SWIC, I think we’re okay for six months. But after that we’re going to be in the same boat” with other struggling schools.

In other business Wednesday the board approved:

▪ A five-year contract with adjunct instructors that calls for 3-percent annual raises. The new pact is retroactive to July 1.

▪ A $161,302 bid to replace the boiler house roof at the Belleville campus.

Fleming said the roof was to be replaced in 2018 but its life span ended prematurely over the summer because of high winds. The repairs will be covered by insurance.

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