The Addition Proposed for McHenry County College – Part 1

The following analysis was performed by Lakewood bond analyst Steve Willson:

MCC’s Not Really Science Labs Project

In 2014, MCC decided to undertake a “space utilization” study. The original goal was to determine the most efficient way to use MCC’s existing space.

But with a new liberal board majority, the focus of the study changed.

Instead of examining how best to use MCC’s existing space, the “study” became a wish list by department heads.

A presentation by Demonica Kemper in August 2014, when it was seeking a contract from MCC, sought to make the case that MCC would grow.

As evidence, they showed the projections from the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Agency.
MCC Lab - Growth from 3-16
CMAP projected that between 2010 and 2014, population in McHenry County would increase by 58%, an annual growth rate of 1.5% per year.

Demonica Kemper uses CMAP’s projection to conclude that enrollment at MCC could more than double by 2040. The problem with this graphic, and with Demonica Kemper’s conclusion is that CMAP’s projections have been completely discredited. Here is the contrary evidence.

The population of the United States grew only 5% between 2010 and 2016, less than 1% per year.

The Census Bureau projects that the total population of the United States will only grow 7.8% between 2015 and 2025, and only 15% between 2015 and 2035.

Nationally, the growth will be far less than 1% per year and most of this growth will be in the elderly, not in the student age population.

The Census Bureau projects that the under 18 age cohort – the feed source for MCC – will increase only 4.9% between 2015 and 2025 and only 9.4% between 2015 and 2035, a growth rate of only 0.7% per year.

Is Illinois likely to buck the national trend and grow? No.

The population of Illinois increased only 0.2% between 2010 and 2015. It declined more than 20,000 in just one year, between 2014 and 2015.

The Illinois Department of Health projects that the population of Illinois will increase just 2.2% between 2015 and 2025. (Population Projections, Illinois, Chicago and Illinois Counties by Age and Sex: July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2025; 2014 Edition)

Will McHenry County buck the national and state trend?

That is highly unlikely.

The population of McHenry County probably peaked in about 2007.

The Census Bureau reports that the population in McHenry County is down 0.5% since 2010.

Their most current estimate is that McHenry County grew by 60 people between 2014 and 2015, or 0.02%.

Further, McHenry County has the highest tax rate of any of the collar counties, meaning people choosing to move to the suburbs have cheaper options.

So where will population growth in McHenry County come from if our taxes make us uncompetitive and both the state and the nation are projected to grow at lower rates than CMAP’s projection?

The answer is: it won’t, at least not at anywhere near the projected rates.

Beyond population, we know for a fact – not a projection – that the student population in McHenry County will continue to decline over the next eleven years.

How do we know this?

Because we know the enrollment in every school district that feeds MCC, and in total, the number of first graders is about 20% lower than the number of high school seniors.

Where will seniors come from in eleven years if they aren’t first grade today?

In District 47, the number of first graders dropped 20% between 2009 and 2015.

This discussion leads directly to a second graphic shown by Demonica Kemper to make the case that MCC is likely to grow. They showed a graph of MCC’s long-run enrollment.

MCC Lab - Growth graph prepared 3-16We know the long-run trend no longer holds because of the evidence above. But notice how carefully the end point for the graphic above was chosen: 2012. They left out the numbers for 2013 and 2014. The numbers below, taken from MCC’s 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (“CAFR”), show that enrollment and credit hours at MCC peaked in 2011 and have declined 11% since then.
MCC Lab - Enrollment 2010-15
In short, we know that enrollment at MCC is likely to remain flat at best and more likely to decline.

And we know further that Demonica Kemper chose to ignore all the data that contradicted their justification for a new building.

We also know that Demonica Kemper had a pecuniary interest in showing bad data: they wanted to get hired, and if there is no growth, then there is no need for Demonica Kemper’s services.

The Board knew all these facts, too.

How do we know this?

Because I, personally, have made them aware of these facts, in comments to the Board, in letters, and in articles. Since my last formal presentation, all the new facts that have emerged have continued the pattern.

Yet the Board majority chose to ignore all the evidence, including the evidence that Demonica Kemper was purposely shading the facts, and hired Demonica Kemper.

What happened next?

= = = = =
More tomorrow.  Part 3 on Tuesday.


The Addition Proposed for McHenry County College – Part 1 — 8 Comments

  1. population in McHenry County would increase by 58%, an annual growth rate of 1.5% per year.

    Huh? A 1.5% annual growth rate is going to result in a 58% growth over 5 years?

    Interesting math.

  2. we know for a fact – not a projection – that the student population in McHenry County will continue to decline over the next eleven years.

    Huh, again? I don’t think “fact” means what you think it means.We know for a fact that the student population that we won’t against see an increase in 1st graders? No, we don’t.

  3. Steve, Good work with your article.

    I like the numbers.

    If you recall some of your numbers are skewed by MCC Promise scholarship.

    I believe the last of those students would have graduated around 2011/2012.

    So it is only natural for the population of the college to increase, then show a decrease, and then stabilize.

    You show District 47 and their declining enrollment, but what about Huntley?

    Huntley has grown, they just had an open house for their new addition.

    Not every school district is declining and not every district is increasing in population.

    I believe we are seeing a plateau or slight decline in students.

    So I believe MCC would reflect something similar.

    It is important to recall not all of MCC students are 18 year old freshman.

    Adults need to be considered with enrollment.

    Finally as I walked the area during GardenFest.

    The labs suck and remind me of my middle school science room in the 70s.

    If the students and outside donors will pay for the new addition for space.

    I am fine with donations and a user fee financing the building.

    That is a lot better solution than having the taxpayers split the bill.

    Not to mention if MCC can expand into the health care area to bring people degrees that pay.

    It serves the community…

    I look forward to your next article and it will give Cal another “hit” on his page in a few days.

  4. Brent:

    Thank you for your questions and comments.

    While some districts have grown, in aggregate, the districts that feed MCC have fewer students in the lower grades than in the upper grades.

    That’s why the number of high school graduates MUST decline over the next eleven years.

    And that’s a key word, “must”: absent a sudden influx of new families, the number of high school seniors available to MCC MUST decline.

    As for adult students, there is no evidence of any increase in enrollment.

    In short, the weight of the evidence is that enrollment at MCC will continue to decline or, at the best, stabilize.

    Let me be clear:

    this is not a situation that I like. I would much prefer to see MCC grow. But my desire has nothing to do with the facts.

    With regard to the quality of the labs, I agree with you: the labs need to be updated.

  5. AlabamaShake:

    Thank you for your comments. It’s always helpful to have someone keep me on my toes.

    As I noted above, I made a typo with regard to the projected growth rate in population.

    The chart says 2010 to 2040, and that’s what I meant to write.

    Please substitute “2040” for “2014”.

    With regard to your second comment about my language, you are absolutely correct.

    I should have written “the number of high school seniors in McHenry County will continue to decline over the next eleven years”.

    Fortunately, I don’t think making those changes alters the weight of the evidence or the conclusion that MCC is more likely to see continued reductions in enrollment than to see large increases.

    If you find any other mistakes in my language, please let me know.

    And if you find any errors of substance or contrary evidence that I have not considered, please include that as well.

    I believe public policy decisions should be based on the weight of the evidence, so anything you can add in the way of facts will be appreciated.

  6. MCC doesn’t need this! How ridiculous.

    We need to start looking for a slate to run against at least 3 of these MCC Board members that think bigger is better and don’t believe they have to show the data to support such things.

    This new President is obviously not much different than the one they just got rid of!

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