No Vote on Expanding MCC Last Thursday

Under the current proposal, a stand alone building would be constructed on the northwestern edge of current buildings.  It would cost extra to connect it to the current complex.  Old labs and current health science rooms would be re-purposed.

Under the current proposal, a stand alone building would be constructed on the northwestern edge of current buildings. It would cost extra to connect it to the current complex. Old labs and current health science rooms would be re-purposed.

After Lakewood bond analyst Steve Willson’s talk during the public comment section of the McHenry County College Board meeting, the Trustees took no action.

You can read Willson’s comments in the article “Steve Willson Urges Closrer Examination Before MCC Board Commits Taxpayers to Debt.”


No Vote on Expanding MCC Last Thursday — 6 Comments

  1. All of the arguments made by administration at MCC to justify the science labs/health careers labs project fail to address THE most fundamental question:

    Will there be enough MORE students getting GOOD JOBS as a direct result of this project to justify spending $24 million?

    The project is for new science labs and new health careers labs.

    Let’s look at both parts.

    The science labs at MCC are obsolete and almost every student at MCC take some science classes, so there is no question the college needs to remodel the science labs.

    The science labs currently occupy about 10,000 square feet. Modern labs are 40% bigger than the old labs. Instead of building a big new addition, MCC could repurpose a few underutilized classrooms near the existing labs to provide the additional space. 14,000 square feet x $325 per square foot = $4.55 million.

    What about the health career labs?

    Well, to begin, they are definitely NOT obsolete. They are, in fact, very new. The Occupational Therapy program was just begun in 2011. The Health Information Technology program was started in 2015. Updating and moving them is throwing away good money.

    So, if the health careers labs are NOT obsolete, is there so much demand that all the students graduating from these programs are finding good paying jobs here in McHenry County and other jobs are going begging, and so the number of labs should be expanded?

    The answer is… MCC has no idea!

    The College’s Mission Statement says,

    “Student success is our goal.”



    And despite promises eighteen months ago to begin to do so, there is STILL no program in place to track whether students actually succeed.

    That means those favoring this expansion are doing so on FAITH, which is, by definition, belief without evidence.

    And how do they intend to pay for this faith-based project?

    By spending our tax dollars and raising the cost of going to college for 100% of the students despite the fact that 95% of the students at MCC are not in these programs and so will not benefit.

    So, if the College doesn’t bother to track the information they need to make an informed decision, and never answered that most basic question in all presentations they made trying to justify this expenditure, is there ANY OTHER EVIDENCE about the number of jobs in these fields?

    The answer is, YES, there is other evidence, and this evidence is AGAINST expanding the health careers labs, and the administration and their consultants ignored this evidence in all their presentations.

    The Illinois Department of Employment Security makes job projections.

    These can easily be compared with the size of each health careers program.

    Let’s take a look.

    The Nursing program has 96 students.

    The IDES projects 53 job openings per year.

    Given that a bachelors degree is needed to get an RN job these days, and that many students go directly to a four year college to get their degree, this program is probably the right size.

    It certainly doesn’t need to be expanded.

    The Occupational Therapy program has 32 students.

    The IDES projects TWO job openings per year in this field in McHenry County.

    The Health Information Technology program has 60 students.

    The IDES projects SIX job openings per year in this field in McHenry County.

    The EMT program has over 100 students.

    IDES projects 11 job openings per year in this field in McHenry County.

    Some of the students in the EMT program are taking refresher courses, but it’s still clear that this program doesn’t need to be expanded.

    Now let’s look at the cost of this program and estimate the benefit.

    The proposed project cost is $24 million.

    As noted above, updating the science labs should cost under $5 million.

    $24 million – $5 million = $19 million.

    The ANNUALIZED cost of $19 million is about $1.4 million per year.

    Divide this additional annual cost, $1.4 million, by the likely number of additional good jobs for students, and decide for yourself if the cost is reasonable.

    In total, the IDES projects only 106 job openings per year in all of the fields in the health careers curriculum and the BEST EVIDENCE WE HAVE indicates that many of the current programs at MCC are probably too big for that demand.

    If that’s the case – and, remember, this is the BEST EVIDENCE WE HAVE – then how many MORE students can we expect to get good jobs each year?

    I would say the best evidence is, “NONE”.

    But even if one were very optimistic – and I would suggest that it’s bad public policy to spend other people’s money on optimistic guesses – the number of additional jobs students are likely to get is small.

    If ONE MORE student each year gets a good job as a result of this capital project, the cost will be $1.4 million for that one student.

    If FIVE MORE students get good jobs each year specifically as a result of this program, the cost will be $280,000 per student.

    If TEN MORE students get good jobs specifically as a result of this program – and that is WILDLY optimistic — the cost will be $140,000 per student.

    So, decide for yourself.

    Should health career labs built in the last few years be thrown away and new labs built?

    Should the College have tracked information about student success before they tried to justify a big capital project?

    Is there other evidence and does this evidence indicate strongly that the programs need to be dramatically expanded?

    Is the cost per student reasonable?

    Should all students have to pay more to go to MCC so a small minority of the students get new space?

    Decide for yourself.

  2. Yet, what Mr. Wilson doesn’t address is the inverse of his argument.

    Is it fair to the students in these space deficient programs to be paying for MCC at the same rate that those in programs with adequate space do?

    You seem to be all about fairness to the majority of students, yet, you’re argument is entirely unfair.

    The health-science labs aren’t obsolete, they lack the space needed.

    The total health science footprint while being new, was given a very small amount of space that is inadequate in a world where your lover Cal Skinner admitted, “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” (

    MCC lacks the sufficient space for the program currently but wants to attain more so that it can actually issue BSN degrees in order to allow these students leaving with noncompetitive RN degrees to get a BSN at McHenry County College.

    I understand how your game is played however, you nitpick the facts as they suit you rather than facing them all because then, the facts are against you.

    Besides, these students graduating aren’t competing for jobs on a local level, they’re doing it on a regional one in an increasingly interconnected world.

    But you’re right Steve, ignoring the needs of the minority in favor of the needs of the majority has, historically, always been the best way to go.

    I praise you for your vision.

  3. If you are talking about adequate space for BSN nursing labs, look at NIU school of nursing.

    There is a separate, modest sized building away from main campus.

    There are 3 what you would call labs, which are simply classroom sized rooms outfitted with hospital beds, and other movable equipment.

    Here’s a link, check it out:

    NIU BS/ Masters Program Nursing school building has nothing which could not be replicated in existing classroom space at MCC.

    NIU has ability to expand nursing program, it could be easily accomplished. Perhaps investigate why they have elected not to do so?

    But I was given to understand that certain MCC Trustees were trying to spend millions on building space that has nothing to do with health sciences…so I’m not understanding KS’ argument.

    It sounds like both taxpayers and nursing students would be better off if ten of them every year were given $30,000 2 year scholarships to NIU (or one of the many other fine nursing schools around the area).

  4. Hey Susan,

    MCC currently has the Skills lab that NIU does, but lacks the assessment and simulation labs.

    You are correct, there is nothing that couldn’t be replicated at MCC, but to do so, the OTA and PTA space would have to be cut.

    There are 3 classrooms currently dedicated to Health Sciences.

    One is equivalent to the skills lab, the other is dedicated to PTA training, and the other to OTA training.

    These are both growing industries as our national population ages. We would still be down two classrooms in order to adequately train for a BSN program.

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention though, I find that really cool.

    I’m glad they’re not expanding more than they need to.

    MCC is just missing that crucial space, which is those Simulation and Assessment labs.

    And as for the mis-understanding of my argument, the current proposal is 12-15 million for updated science labs, something every single trustee indicated at the meeting last week they are all for provided adequate funding is there.

    The 9 million would be used to remodel the current, 50 year old science labs space (that will be moved in the $12-15 million project) with space for Nursing and Health sciences in the hopes to launch a BSN program at MCC.

    Hope this make more sense.

  5. The main misunderstanding seems to be definition of the word “lab” as it pertains to nursing.

    At NIU (which offers BSN and Masters programs) the lab could be created in any classroom by moving equipment into the room, and this equipment doesn’t cost millions.

    At NIU the assessment ‘lab’ is a normal classroom set up like ED exam beds.

    I believe the standard ED is 100 sq ft per bed.

    What goes on there is nursing students examine one another non-invasively, and take medical histories, while other students observe.

    The sim lab is 3 beds as I recall, and a walled off observation area with one way glass for instructors.

    There are mics so the instructors can speak (or moan) as the patient mannequin.

    As a taxpayer of 4% of total home fair market value, I feel strongly that every spending decision must be analyzed carefully and based on evidence. Nursing school emphasizes evidence based assessment.

    For example, If MCC identifies that 50 nursing students would have a 20% chance of better job outcome given certain conditions, then we can quantify the annual value of achieving that goal as:

    20% of 50=10. 10 students attending NIU bachelor of nursing program at around $15,000 per year.

    That indicates the break-even point of equity to taxpayers and nursing students at $150,000 annually.

    If the chief complaint at MCC is lack of a sim lab and assessment lab for nursing students, the intervention can be immediately accomplished within any two 1200 sq ft empty classroom anywhere on campus.

    Portable hospital beds, suction, oxygen, and IV equipment is all available used, cheap.

    If a co-morbidity indicates a deeper level of intervention , as with refreshing the old science labs, it still does not excuse decision makers from analytic responsibility.

    The general science labs have more complicated needs, such as haz-mat containment.

    Presumably the current lab rooms have necessary infrastructure, but the student tables are all in a row rather than facing in a circle?

    Where is the Trustee analysis of cost to retrofit existing lab space?

    Again, at 4% property tax rate, these are very crucial questions.

    Nurses, who do not have the luxury of publicly funded retirement funds, or publicly funded healthcare, are being driven out of this County.

    Nurses employed in private sector pay extraordinary high healthcare premiums, something those in school administration might find shocking.

    So please, if you are framing the analysis of something “for the benefit of future nurses”, factor in that every penny of property tax dollars spent frivolously is quantifiably detrimental.

    Forcing McHenry County taxpayers to overspend on nursing training for local students who subsequently cannot afford to live and work locally due to 4% property tax rates does not seem like a logical plan.

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