McHenry County College Rolls Out $279 Million 10-Year Campus “Vision,” Cost for 2052 Plan $640 Million in 2013 Dollars without Interest

“Vision” was the word that main presenter Leanne Meyer-Smith used to describe the $278.5 million (excluding “soft” and acquisition costs) proposal her firm developed for the McHenry County College Board.

As with most presentations of government “goods,” the cost didn’t come until after the benefits.

In fact, the cost figures were on the very last slide.

Here's the last slide presented. If you add up the bottom line and estimate interest at less than $400 million over the forty years, the total cost will be in the $1 billion range.

After 35 pages of attractive wish-fulfillments.

Wight Arhcitectural-Engineering-Constrution plans started with the current boundaries.

After the 67 acres were purchased during the last decade, the McHenry County College campus has these boundraries. On the upper left hand side of the map is land along Route 14 the college board is trying to condemn.

As a basis for projecting needs, the consultants guessed that enrollment would increase 3% per year for the next forty years and selected junior colleges for comparison, but eliminated what were called “outliers.”

While inflation of students was projected, monetary inflation was not. The $278 million dollars are 2013 dollars, even though they are for the first ten-years of the forty-year plan.

Morraine Valley Community College had fewer square feet per student than MCC (85 vs. 97 at MCC), but, since it was an “outlier,” it disappeared from the analysis.

Except when the Wight people want to show how a quadrangle arrangement of buildings could work.

Lake County had 124 square feet per student and was also eliminated as an “outlier.”

What the McHenry County College campus would look like 10-20 years from now under the presented plan. Note the open space about where Tartan Road is now. On the Route 14 side would be a Student Services Building. All buildings would be connected with covered overhead corridors. It would taken 17 minutes to get from one end of the complex to the other.

Left for comparison were colleges the lowest of which in square footage (College of DuPage) was 18.6% higher than MCC’s.; the largest square footage, at Harper, was 38% higher than McHenry County’s.

What little I remember of math was that assumptions always determined the solutions.

Start with a high base and you’ll end up with a high result.

This slide identifies what functions would be where on the new campus. Note it is assumed land will be purchased north to Ridgefield Road.

With MCC now having 97 square feet per student, the number advanced by the consultants was “120-124 gross square feet per student.”

This, even though it was admitted that an increasing number of students were taking their courses online.

No where in the presentation was there any analysis of the utilization of current space, by the way. Nevertheless, faculty told the consultants, “There’s a space crunch everywhere you go.”

An image of the view from Route 14 was described as a necklace of buildings. Not mentioned is that there will be lakes along most of the distance.

Here's what the McHenry County College campus would look like around 2050, if student enrollment increases at the 3% annual rate, and $639.9 million in 2013 dollars can be found.

A arched entryway is envisioned for the main entrance opposite Lucas Road.

And there will be lots of “quality outdoor space” in the center of the campus to encourage students to stay on campus.

A key element in the space calculation is needed parking.

A three dimension view of the finished product after spending $640 million in 2013 dollars, plus land acquistion and soft costs like moving expenses.

For none of the other colleges used for comparison, however were such figures presented.

Pretty much every word available was used to appeal to environmentalists. There was even a photo of a windmill on one slide.

Here's the summary of inducements to environmentalists to support the tax hike needed to finance the billion dollare (including interest) plan.

The argument was made that using permeable paving “at least at the front,” the three-stage water run-off system mandated by Crystal Lake Watershed Ordinance, electric car re-charging stations, etc., would allow the public and even builders to see what can be seen “no place [else]” locally.

I am sure the McHenry County Conservation District would be pleased to show off most of what was suggested at its Visitors Centerin Ringwood.

Another slide aimed at environmentalists missed the mark by not mentioning the pre-eminant energy conservation firm in McHenry County--Solarcrete.

I have to admit that I don’t understand the logic for electric re-charging stations being taxpayer financed. Maybe that’s not what the consultants were suggesting. With natural gas prices where they are, ten years from now, there might well be more cars running on that fuel than electricity unless there are much better batteries in our future. And, if there are, what would be the need for re-charging stations?

Lots of trucks running on natural gas now, by the way. Not that I am suggesting MCC setting up a location to fill vehicle tanks.

Plenty of meetings were held over a nine-month period to obtain input, but most seem to have been in-house. Employees, of course, always want more space, better working conditions. They, however, want others to pay for such improvements.

The most significant outreach was to the McHenry County Council of Governments, which in my less polite moments, I would characterized as a trade association of taxeaters.

Under no characterization, however, could they be labeled taxpayer advocates. I say that waiting for any governing board to point out more than one year in which their boards did not take (or reserve for the taking in future years) the maximum amount possible from property taxpayers. (Most, including MCC, have always maximized the tax take from homeowners and businesses. Any corrections will made joyously.)

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Some comments on SolarCrete.


McHenry County College Rolls Out $279 Million 10-Year Campus “Vision,” Cost for 2052 Plan $640 Million in 2013 Dollars without Interest — 14 Comments

  1. Unfortunately because of reckless spending and inflated salaries kids are not going to be able to afford to go to college.

    I believe that their projections are incorrect and that their plan is weak at best.

    You hear story after story about kids paying $800 month for student loans and regretting their decision that forces them to delay purchasing a house and starting a family.

    Fortunately I had a full scholarship for my BS as I cannot fathom having to pay that each and every month.

    I know people with Masters degrees that make less than $14/hr…this is not 10 years ago when a degree pretty much guaranteed you a high paying job.

    The college bubble will burst just like the real estate bubble did…it’s just a matter of time.

  2. I agree.

    The Master Plan for any educational facility or system needs to include the projected sources of funding to sustain it as well as the design of the facility itself.

    If students can’t afford to attend, it will fail.

    As for the Building Systems and Sustainable Practices, these are relatively new ideas in the environmental marketplace, most notably showcases by organizations like the USGBC.

    These technologies can be radically expensive and difficult to maintain.

    An example would be the Architectural Sciences Building at Judson College in Elgin, just down the road. Still, without exhibiting these technologies, they will never enter the marketplace.

    Has anyone considered just relocating MCC to the Motorola Facility in Harvard?

    Talk about killing 2 birds with one stone…

  3. A campus north of Harvard would be more than a little inconvenient to most MCC students.

    The current location was selected because it was near the population center of the college district.

    I believe it still is.

  4. Have you been in the building in Harvard?

    It is a beautiful MANUFACTURING facility.

    Not exactly adaptable to classrooms.

  5. I’m not so sure about a college “bubble”.

    While I can see your point about costs/student debt in a current recession, would you tell your kids not to attend college?

    They may regret the debt they’ll have, but the facts are that with a degree you stand to make a lot more money over your lifetime.

  6. Jim is absolutely right.


    Have you not been paying attention? For years and years now, that has been totally untrue.

  7. Easy access to student loans has many students buying cars, taking to the max to go on spring break, not getting a job while in school or extending their education to 5 and 6 years.

    Not just getting what is necessary for tuition.

    Like anything else- if you have no consequences and don’t see the actual impact- you are likely to make bad decisions.

    I recently met a young man who said he had over $145,000 in student loans and was complaining he was paying over $800 a month in student loan debt.

    I asked whether he worked while he went to school- he said no.

    But he bought his computer and had money to live on while in school with his student loans.

    He will not pay off that $145,000 in 10 years at that rate.

    He hadn’t gone to a private school.

    He graduated with a BA of Political Science and $145K of debt- really?

    In what reality do you think you get a job that can support that kind of debt?

    This isn’t always the schools fault.

    Gone are the days when kids think they should work to go to school, wait to get what they want, or budget for the things they need.

    My son goes to a private school out of state and STILL

    I didn’t pay $145K for his 4 years.

    Go where you can afford. Work to lower the costs.


    Why hasn’t our college done what CLC has done- developed satellites in other places- in existing buildings?

  8. Cindy –

    I guess what I’m getting at is that even with the costs, I still want my kids to have a degree.

    A degree doesn’t guarantee you a high paying job immediately, but across the board, those with degrees make far more money.

    I don’t see many opportunities for good jobs otherwise.

  9. Another option to be considered: D155 is looking at declining enrollment.

    I’ve heard rumors that one of the four schools will be closed eventually.

    Any of the campuses would work perfectly for an extension.

    CLC is close to Metra, it might make the most sense.

  10. Once again I find myself asking “What are ‘They’ thinking?”

    First it’s the libraries, everyone wants to have one very near them and it should be everything to everybody at all times.

    Things/activities that belong in Park Districts, other public facilities, schools, etc. still get pulled into libraries. T

    echnology is on the road to wiping out the need to have actual books.

    Our children are computer trained at an early age.

    Few people of today want to store books in their living spaces let alone move them from place to place to place.

    It’s almost like the people who are financially tied to libraries are trying to make old time libraries relevant to the future population instead of rethinking what the future needs and wants will be.

    Uh oh – getting an education online is possible now.

    There will be less need for huge parking lots, classrooms, and so on.

    And – what will the jobs of our not so distant future be?

    We are already becoming a service society as opposed to making things with our own hands and resources. Factories that once required hundreds of employees are now run with a few who work the machinery that replaced the others.

    We have changed a great deal in the last century – far more than the thousands of years prior. I imagine the changes in the next decade will be astonishing.

    So, keeping all of this in mind – is this grand expansion plan much like the libraries?

    Is it to keep the colleges “growing” so that the financially related people still have jobs in the future?

    It wasn’t that long ago we were writing everything by hand and it was delivered by Pony Express months later.

    Now, many of us don’t bother to send out Christmas cards or Thank You notes and so on.

    Instead we text or use email or call.

    The plan is to do most of our financial transactions online.

    We swipe a card instead of writing a lot of checks or carrying cash.

    Traveling for meetings isn’t what it used to be when you can all be “present” on screens and audio across the planet.

    There is an emotional tie to the idea of a college campus and to physical books, however, it’s time for our 21st Century brains and choices to be more practical, financially sustainable, and to answer the needs and wants of tomorrow’s world.

  11. John says: 04/27/2012 at 1:04 pm

    I think it’s great that you want your kids to have an education…. them you pay for it because I don’t want to pay any longer!

  12. The Daily Herald reports Saturday, “MCC hired Wight & Co. in August to do the plan for $126,000.”

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