Money from Illinois' new capital bill will allow Spoon River College to take a big step toward completing its new campus in Macomb.
SRC has been waiting for years for state funding to come through to pay for renovating a former retail store on East Jackson Street. Thus far, only the Community Outreach Center has been completed. It occupies about a third of the building.
College President Curt Oldfield said the capital bill includes $6.1 million to add a new career and technical workforce center to the site -- though it won’t happen overnight.
“We anticipate it will be a few years down the road before we start the paperwork to begin that. But that will work out well for our situation to be able to bring programs along and be able to move in. So the timing of it’s going to fall together well,” said Oldfield.
He said SRC will require another $10 million from the state to build the rest of the classrooms needed to move its Macomb campus to East Jackson Street.
Oldfield said the capital bill also includes money that will allow SRC to redo the east side of the parking lot at the East Jackson Street site.
More Operating Money from the State
SRC will also receive an increase of about $200,000 in operating funds from the state. All community colleges in Illinois are receiving a 5% state funding boost for the fiscal year that started July 1.
Oldfield said the additional money will help SRC pay for new programs in manufacturing and health care.
“Having new programs coming on board adds some expense so that revenue will certainly come in at a perfect time to allow us to expand those programs,” he said.
However, he said the state is still falling far short of the funding model set up when community colleges were established. The plan was for the state, tuition, and local property taxes to each account for about one-third of the funding for the schools.
Oldfield said about 53% of SRC’s revenue this year will come from tuition, 35% from property taxes, and just 12% from the state.
SRC Enrollment Drops When WIU Enrollment Drops
Western students sometimes take a class or two at SRC’s Macomb campus. For example, Spoon River might offer a class that’s full at Western, and Spoon River can help WIU students who need remediation in subjects such as Mathematics and English.
So Oldfield said when there are fewer students at Western, there are also fewer students at his school.
“Five students taking one class apiece is the equivalent of a fulltime student at 15 hours. And so when we see the significant decrease of enrollment at Western, we feel that pain too,” he said.
Oldfield said collaboration is important so SRC is working to strengthen its transfer partnerships with Western. He said transfer students can help boost the university’s enrollment figures.
He said the early numbers for the upcoming fall semester show some good news for SRC: a 3% registration increase in credit hours. He said students will continue to register for classes right up through the Friday before the new school year begins on Monday, August 19.