Consultant Finds MCC Space Needs, Half in Athletics/PE, Half for Student Center

Phase 1 of a two-part study of space utilization needs for McHenry County College found a net current space deficiency of 20,540 “assignable square feet.”

Increase that number by 35-50% and one finds the gross shortage.

Looking at the calculation, one finds

  • half of the amount said to be needed under the category of “athletics/physical education” and
  • the other half for a “student center.”

There was a 16% surplus in classroom space.

“Teaching labs” were found to have enough space, but “open laboratories and service” were short 20% or 2,823 assignable square feet.

Looking ahead ten years, the Denver-based firm of Paulien & Associations projected a shortage of 63,677 assignable square feet.

There still would be enough space for regular classrooms without any additions, assuming eleven hours of use each day during a five-day week.

And more than enough space in the college’s library.

2025 shortages, based on programs assumed to be in place, rather than enrollment increases, follow:

  • Teaching laboratories & service (e.g., storage) – 19,460 assignable square feet
  • Open laboratories & service – 4,807 asf
  • Offices & service – 5,950 asf
  • Recreation – 3,452 asf
  • Other academic space – 2,946 asf
  • Athletics/physical education – 12,188 asf
  • Assembly & exhibit – 884 asf
  • Collaborative learning/group study – 2,721 asf
  • Physical plant – 2,515 asf
  • Fire science – 966 asf
  • Student center – 13.106 asf

Consultants spent two days on campus “talking to various administrative and student entities,” Frank Markley of Paulien & Associates explained.

No contact was mentioned with taxpayers.

Although there was no shortage of classrooms discovered, Markley found that “certain classroom [sizes] could be used more efficiently,” while some were at capacity.

Molly Walsh

Molly Walsh

Molly Walsh asked if that meant there was not the right mix of classrooms.

The answer was, “Yes.”

The bench marks used were national standards for community colleges.

Walsh pointed out that the projected needs were “based on programmatic  needs” and that “enrollment was not a critical factor.”

Markley explained that “as a college gets larger, it needs less space per student.”

“So, you’re aware enrollment is going down?  People are leaving McHenry County.  Third graders are down,” Karen Tirio asked.

Frank Markley

Frank Markley

Markley replied that he had “found a lot of discrepancy in the population data.

“We don’t use just a headcount or FTE [Full-Time Equivalent].  We look at the students on the campus.

“It simply wasn’t a major factor in our analysis.”

“Maybe we ought to get rid of some programs that just aren’t working,” Tirio suggested.

“We didn’t look into that,” the consultant replied.

Student Trustee Jason Memmen thought that returning Veterans would offset the lower number of students who would be graduating from high school in the future.

He noted that the current Veterans Center is inadequate.

After the presentation I asked if the art exhibit room across the hall from the MCC Board meeting room could be turned into a Veterans Center.

Student art exhibit room.

The student art exhibit room could be re-purposed as a Veterans Center.

The consultants deferred such a decision to the college board.

Cynthia Kisser was animated while discussing the report.   Student Trustee Jason Memmen is seen in the background.

Cynthia Kisser was animated while discussing the report. Student Trustee Jason Memmen is seen in the background.

In discussion after the presentation, Cynthia Kisser pointed out that the college’s 2013-2018 strategic plan was only approved by three of the current Trustees.

She suggested the current board members review it before proceeding to Phase 2 or the space utilization study.

Kisser also wanted to hear the use that would be made of extra recommended space.

Dominick Demonica of Demonica Kemper Architects pointed out that what had been “presented today is significantly less than what was previously reported.”

That was put on the agenda of the next Committee of the Whole meeting.

Discussion on the recommendations will also take place at next Tuesday’s Board meeting.

Phase 1 of the study cost $76,300.

The total cost will be $131,200.


Consultant Finds MCC Space Needs, Half in Athletics/PE, Half for Student Center — 10 Comments

  1. I bet the same people who thought the sky was falling over imaginary six figure shortfalls will call for eight figure expansions now…

  2. I am underwhelmed by MCC’s space planning study.

    And I’m beginning to wonder if there is anyone at MCC who can do anything without a consultant.

    For $132,000, the College got a regurgitation of their own numbers and a phony projection that supports the administration’s stated position.


    First the consultant notes that between 2008 and 2014, student enrollment increased 11% and full-time equivalent enrollment increased 17%.

    They fail to point out that both figures peaked in 2011 and have declined steadily since then, by 8.4% and 10.1%, respectively.

    Later they project that in ten years enrollment will be 7.6% higher.

    Where will the additional students come from?

    The consultant doesn’t say.

    But increased enrollment MUST come either from traditional freshmen or from increased adult enrollment.

    So let’s look at the numbers for both cohorts.

    Elementary school enrollment in McHenry County has been in decline for years, especially at the elementary level.

    We have 20% fewer third graders than we have seniors.


    The consultant admitted that they did not look at elementary school enrollment in McHenry County.

    Freshmen make up the vast majority of MCC’s students.

    Very simple math shows that if freshman enrollment declines by 20%, then IN THE NEXT TEN YEARS, OLDER STUDENT ENROLLMENT WILL HAVE TO INCREASE BY 88% TO CAUSE OVERALL ENROLLMENT TO INCREASE BY 7%.

    There has been NO trend at MCC of increasing adult enrollment.

    And population in McHenry County has been declining since 2007 or 2008.

    So, again I ask, where will the additional students come from?

    The consultant doesn’t say.

    I suppose we should just be happy that the administration isn’t still pushing the “3% every year” growth number they touted just two years ago.


    The consultant’s major conclusions about the College’s space are that

    (1) classrooms are in use only 56% of the time, and

    (2) that average class size is 18.

    We already knew that.

    I forced the College to divulge the first figure two years ago.

    They denied they collected such information when I submitted a FOIA request, but, ultimately, they coughed up the data.

    As for the second number, it is in a table at the back of their annual report.

    Average class size used to be 22 and is now 18.

    I did an analysis of MCC’s course enrollment two years ago at Tom Wilbeck’s request and found that 28% of MCC’s credit classes had ten or fewer students.

    Many had only three!

    The consultant concludes:

    “The findings show that there is additional capacity in the afternoons and early evening hours…”


    To their credit, the consultant did make one useful observation:

    that classroom utilization at MCC is below the standards set by many states, meaning there is zero need for more classroom space.

    Again, though — there is no one at MCC who could have figured that out without hiring a consultant for $132,000?

    How about the College’s Office of Institutional Research?

    Why even have such a department if they can’t develop this kind of information?


    The consultant concludes that in ten years, because of enrollment increases, MCC will need 20,000 square feet more space than it has today, half for a bigger gym and half for a big new student center, an idea the administration has been pushing hard.

    We don’t need a bigger gym at MCC, any more than we needed a big health club two years ago.

    And empty classrooms can be used for student club meetings and the big new empty cafeteria can double as a lounge — which it already does.

    And if the College grows, which is unlikely based on current trends and data, we will have plenty of time to see it coming and add space then, not today based on phony projections.


    Next up: MCC wants to hire a consultant to find a new president because apparently no one there feels competent to make such a decision on their own.

  3. So pleased with Wilson.

    A voice of reason.

    Too bad so many do not know what that is.

  4. Taxpayers pay for a consultant that proposes more taxes needed.


    Illannoy everything you would expect to happen.

    It’s insanity.

  5. Steve, its just like roads… if you build them bigger, more people will come and spend more money at the increased number of stores.

    You don’t need to know where the people will come from.


    Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t SOME need to do SOME work to make updates NEEDED for continued use of the school.

    I realize the scholastic needs of our students change and things wear out or become outdated and need to be replaced or changed.

    However, I am completely fine not having a game room for the students and find the basis for the projected growth to be patently ridiculous (see Steve’s comments).

    Thanks Steve for your analysis.

  6. So this has nothing to do with enrollment increase projections (which are down btw) or Need.

    This is nothing more than a VERY EXPENSIVE professionally compiled ‘wish list’ from the Deans of every subject at the college, and the student Trustee?

    This couldn’t be more ridiculous if it tried to be!

  7. Reminds me of Chicago’s school building spree of 15 years ago, based on faulty population projections, followed of course by the recent closures after the growth failed to materialize.

    A bunch of people made out like bandits with all the contracts, for both construction and closures.

  8. Thanks to consultants, Cary has two closed schools if MCC needs more space.

  9. Depending on the annual data group I decide to select….

    I can prove to you that figures truly do lie and liars truly do figure…..

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