Critique of $22 Million MCC Building Proposal

The McHenry County College Board is scheduled to meet tonight at 6:30 to discuss facility need for science labs/health careers.

The only story written so far on the subject, published last Friday, can be found here.

A critique by Steve Willson of the $22 million science lab-health training proposal from McHenry County College’s administration:

Questionable Justification for More Health Career Labs

McHenry County College recently produced yet another document to justify their proposed $24 million science/health career labs project.

What’s interesting is both what IS in the document and what ISN’T in the document. This article will focus on three big issues:

  • the total size of the proposed project;
  • how large the health careers programs should be; and
  • whether the health career labs are obsolete.

Total Project Size

The document notes that the existing science labs occupy about 12,600 square feet but no information is given on the size of the health career labs. Based on the number of health career labs, the size is probably smaller than the science labs, but all together the labs probably occupy less than 24,000 square feet.

The proposed project is almost 73,000 square feet, or three times the current space. Yet the documents given to the trustees and the public never explain why a 24,000 square foot project suddenly becomes a 73,000 square foot project.

There is a disconnect between the evidence and the proposed solution – a 50,000 square foot disconnect.

Proper Program Enrollment

The justification for more health careers labs looks questionable based on the projected number of job openings versus the number of students enrolled.

MCC Lab enrollment + employment opportunities

1) Illinois Department of Employment Security annual job projections for McHenry County.
2) “Patient Care Technician” is not an IDES-defined category.

Look very carefully at the last two columns in the table above and compare the size of each program with the projected number of job openings.

Let’s begin with the Nursing program. Hospitals no longer hire RNs without a Bachelors degree so to get a good job the MCC students will have to finish at a four-year college. But many nursing students go straight to a four-year college, so MCC needs to produce fewer graduates than there are job openings. In short, the nursing program is probably “right-sized”.

But look at Occupational Therapy Assistant. The program has 32 students per year and probably graduates about nine. But the Illinois Department of Employment Security projects only TWO job openings per year!

Similarly, the Health Information Technology program looks like it will graduate three times as many students as there are local job openings.

The EMT program looks like it will graduate three times as many students as there are job openings.

The Basic Nursing Assistant program will produce 40% more graduates than there are job openings.

Patient Care Technician is NOT an IDES-defined job category, so it’s not possible to say whether this program is right-sized or not.

Finally, the Physical Therapy Assistant program appears to be right-sized.

In short, two of seven programs appear to be the right size, for one there is no data, but for FOUR of the seven programs, with 67% of the students, appear to be far larger than they should be.

Is it good public policy to encourage students to study for positions in fields where there won’t be enough jobs? Is is fair to the students? Is it fair to the taxpayers? It is a good use of donors’ money?

Health Career Labs Not Obsolete

Next look at the age of the programs and their labs. The nursing program was started eight years ago; those labs are not obsolete. The OTA program was started in 2011. THOSE labs are not obsolete. The HIT program is brand new – it started just last year. Clearly there is no justification for replacing that lab. Similarly the Patient Care Technician program is also brand new; it’s lab cannot be obsolete.

It’s possible that the EMT and Nursing Assistant labs are obsolete, but that should be proven before money is spent.

In short, of seven programs, five have facilities of very recent vintage.


It appears that once again the administration has presented the board and the public with a collection of non sequiturs rather than a persuasive case including sufficient data and clear reasoning connecting the data to their desired conclusions.

= = = = =

Below is McHenry County College’s justification:

MCC Lab justification 5-16 p1MCC Lab justification 5-16 p2


Critique of $22 Million MCC Building Proposal — 7 Comments

  1. The most troubling aspect is the attitude of MCC Board members who are so terrified of looking at data which contradicts their own indoctrinated, intractable mindsets.

    They will not alter course.

    Their course is to spend public funds with for-profit supplicants who are kind and flattering to them personally.

    When presented with strong conflicting data, will these persons who sought office step up and either refute these data, present data to contradict, or simply ignore the troubling unanswered contraindications to the officeholders’ desired course of spending?

  2. There are many problems here.

    The administration SHOULD put together a clear document showing the various options, including just a remodel of existing space.

    With each option they should show the pros and cons with sufficient evidence for the trustees to choose rationally among the options.

    Instead they push only the option they want and, if pressed, release information in dribs and drabs, and never in a form where comparison is easy.

    No for-profit company would put up with this kind of approach.

    Yet when spending other people’s money, apparently the board majority thinks this approach is acceptable.

  3. Steve Wilson says:

    “Is it good public policy to encourage students to study for positions in fields where there won’t be enough jobs? Is is fair to the students? Is it fair to the taxpayers? It is a good use of donors’ money?”

    These questions alone show the fallacy of his analysis.

    Are we to assume that every McHenry County student will only stay in McHenry County?

    The sample size is too small to make the claim Steve is making.

    Students are competing for jobs regionally…not only locally.


  4. John Q, then one could assume it would be a good idea to let neighboring college within average driving distance to work, carry the curriculum the ones behind this project are pushing!

    We’re not in competition with Harper, Elgin, Lake Co. Community Colleges.

    If it costs McHenry County too much to have these programs-get rid of them.

    Hand them off to the other local colleges and open programs at MCC that would be unique to those other colleges, be what the community/region NEEDS and what would provide good paying jobs. (not these ‘just above minimum wage jobs’) Geesh, yourself!

    Continuing to do this for their own Empire Building Vanity Projects is unfair to the Tax Payers, Students, Parents of Students, Donors of Scholarships and the Community!

  5. Josey, I wouldn’t trust any schools administration.

    But it’s a split board.

    Spenders/Lobbyists vs. Commonsense Conservatives/Tax Payer Watchdogs.

    Can anyone direct us to who’s who?

  6. The sad thing is, some of those labs really do need updating and their own space.

    I can’t speak to the needs of health professions, but I do know that the physics and chem labs are in dire need of updating.

    I was an adjunct physics/engineering instructor at MCC from 2009-2014.

    Early in that time, MCC eliminated the physics lab and put it in shared space with a newly renovated chemistry lab.

    This was done to make room for more biology lab space.

    Physics and chemistry instructors made due the best we could, but this was not a good solution.

    Chemistry and physics labs are fundamentally too different to effectively share space.

    Think of how awkward it is to try and do projectile motion experiments in a lab full of fragile glass titration equipment.

    I don’t know of any college or even any high school that shares lab space for these two disciplines.

    In addition, the second chemistry lab that was not renovated looks like something out of the 1950’s.

    It’s embarrassing that our community college has facilities that are well behind our local high schools for these disciplines.

    It is time that the college, the board and the community come together on this and find a solution that is reasonable.

    If MCC and our community hopes to adequately serve engineering, physics and chemistry students, who WILL be entering high demand careers with good pay, we need to provide the appropriate facilities to educate them.

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