Here is the reply of Mary Miller, who chairs the MCC Board, to Stephen Willson’s critique of the Wight & Company’s expansion and remodeling proposal
Critic of the McHenry County College 3% Annual 40-Year Enrollment Projections Says They Deserve an “F”
I figure will cost in the neighborhood of $1 billion in today’s money once interest is included. (I have separated sentences in various paragraphs to make it easier to read on a screen. In addition, I have re-formatted portions to make it easier to read.)
RE: [Steven Willson’s] Open Letter to MCC Board of Trustees and Community
After reading Mr. Willson’s open letter, as Chairperson of the Board of Trustees for McHenry County College, I was compelled to respond to some of his allegations and inaccuracies.
The community college mission is to provide access to higher education to all who seek it, as well as to support economic development through education and training opportunities. As the organization that serves the educational needs of the entire county, McHenry County College (MCC) strives toward the utmost accountability to its
- community members and
Throughout the process of data gathering that contributed to the proposed Facility Master Plan, the College solicited feedback from all of these stakeholder groups through
- focus groups and
- market research,
well as looked at future
- academic trends and
- needs the county has,
so that we may stay in line with workforce needs for the future.
The Facility Master Plan also reflects opportunities for the College to connect with residents throughout the county who have yet to take advantage of its educational opportunities, and how we might engage them in the future.
After all, as the college that serves the entire community, it is critical that we look at how we can serve all educational groups more often and with more support
- (traditional credit students,
- adult students,
- training and workforce development students,
- continuing and professional education students, and
- community event participants).
The College entered into the planning process due to the space constraints within the existing buildings and programs.
Currently, MCC is 100,000 gross square feet short for our students, our course offerings, and desired classroom space.
The below summary clarifies some of the most significant inaccuracies that Mr. Willson cited in his letter.
According to the Fall 2011 McHenry County Labor Report, the average yearly growth in the county over the past 21 years has been 3.6%.
The enrollment growth average for the College over the past ten fiscal years has been 4%.
Both of these data documents were used to establish enrollment growth projections within the Facility Master Plan.
Nationwide, the emphasis on community education is steadily growing.
In 2009, President Obama created a focus on community colleges, launching the White House’s first-ever community college summit.
This initiative stressed that through expanded learning opportunities, training and availability of higher education,
“Americans will learn the skills and knowledge necessary to compete for the jobs of the future.”
The president set expectations for community colleges to graduate an additional five million students by 2020.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, eight of the ten fastest-growing careers do not require a bachelor’s degree.
By 2018, 60% of the jobs in the country will require some level of postsecondary education below a bachelor’s degree.
The estimated growth of the College over the coming years may also be attributed to new and existing program development.
New programs at MCC that reflect the needs of our community will include:
- respiratory therapy,
- physical therapy assistant,
- health information technology,
- manufacturing and
- veterinary technician.
Many of these programs will have general education requirements, as well as high-tech and/or laboratory space requirements, creating additional program and space implications.
Such growth would also come in the form of new weekend programming to serve our adult learner population, including advanced manufacturing/skilled training programs,
- business, and
- information technology programs.
The emergence of new programs in these and other high-demand areas will attract more adult learners and allow the College to better support industries within the county.
MCC’s educational programs are rapidly changing to meet the needs of today’s students, ranging from traditional full time,
- part-time working,
- returning degree-seeking adults,
- four-year transfer students, and
- online students.
The College continually analyzes curricula and surveys students to ensure the right mix of courses, certificates and degrees are offered.
This speaks to the mission of the community college—to provide more opportunities for every citizen to achieve a higher education, which is at the core of a thriving community.
McHenry County College is always open to hearing all residents’ views and ideas.
Mary R. Miller
Chair, Board of Trustees
First let me note that Stephen Willson got more of a reply than I ever have by asking questions in person at board meetings. I haven’t checked lately, but the last time I did, the questions asked were not even included in the minutes. (I have reformatted Willson’s reply as well.)
Here is Willson’s reply, which, I expect, will elicit another reply.
Subject: RE: Response to An Open Letter to the MCC Board
Date: Fri, 11 May 2012 10:01:06 -0500
Dear Ms. Miller:
I’m so glad you responded. This gives us the opportunity to have a real dialogue. Let’s consider each issue, shall we?
The first paragraph speaks to the College’s mission. I agree with your mission and concede the point.
Please explain how your mission affects population projections.
Your second paragraph speaks to the purpose of the Master Plan and asserts without evidence that the College is 100,000 square feet short of the space it needs.
I have visited the college on many occasions during normal school hours, and I would say that, on average, 33% of the classrooms that I pass are empty.
Please produce figures showing the percentage of time that the classroom space you have is utilized.
Paragraphs 3 and 4 are where you say you will address my inaccuracies.
You address exactly one point, population growth in McHenry County since 1990. Allow me to speak to your points.
First of all, the Fall 2011 McHenry County Labor Report says population grew 74.7% over 20 years, not 21. Further, if you do the math, that translate into an annual rate of increase of 2.83%, not 3.6% [(1.028^20)-1=74.7%].
Second, even this figure is wrong. According to the Census Bureau, the population of McHenry County was 183,241 in 1990 and 308,760 in 2010. That translates into annual growth of 2.64%.
Third, more recent growth is more relevant than older growth. The growth rate from 2000 to 2010 was only 1.73% per year.
Fourth, the number of young people in school — the future students at MCC — is declining. As I stated, the number of 3rd graders is declining at every single school district in the County, at most for several years, and right now equals only 80% of the number of high school seniors. Where will future students come from if the number of high school seniors declines over the next ten years?
In short, you provide one inaccurate piece of evidence to support your position and responded to none of my other points about population growth in McHenry County and especially to projected changes in population in the 18-24 year old age cohort.
As I point out, the number of new students your growth rate implies means that you would have to capture an increasing percentage of the graduating high school seniors, eventually exceeding 100%.
The math is indisputable.
The number of new students enrolling at the college now is equal to about 33% of the graduating high school seniors in McHenry County, but a 3% growth rate forces this capture rate up to 50% in 10 years, 75% in 20 years, and more than 100% in 30 years.
How in the world can the college grow by that much?
In the same paragraph you mention the growth rate in enrollment at the college, but fail to point out that the college has exceeded a 3% growth rate in only two of the last seven years, that one of these was a one-time jump due to the Promise program, and that in the last two semesters, your enrollment has declined 4% and 5% respectively.
You can pick your starting point carefully to make your case, but the choice of the starting point must be justified.
If there is some sort of formal demographic study that underlies the 3% growth projection, please produce it and explain why it was not sent to me in response to my FOIA request.
Also, the papers I was sent include a reference to the MCC Master Plan Steering Committee, but the response to my FOIA request included zero information on this committee, such as membership, meeting minutes, reports, etc.
Now either there is no committee or the College failed to provide an appropriate response to my FOIA request.
As you answer this question, please also explain why Joseph Baumann, your own Director of Institutional Research, was not a part of this committee and was only minimally involved and did not actually participate in generating the 3% projection.
Your remaining paragraphs speak to the College’s hopes for the future.
I wish you well with this.
I think community colleges play an important role in our society, providing a cheap way for kids to get their first two years of college if they are going for a bachelor’s degree, providing technical and occupational training for those who do not plan to attend a four year college, and providing some fun classes, too.
The issue is not whether MCC is a worthy institution, but only whether it needs an additional $280 million.
I look forward to further discussion on these points. It is through this kind of public debate that the public has the opportunity to make an informed decision.