Yesterday I ran Part 1 of bond analyst Steve Willson’s analysis of McHenry County College’s $34 million capital projects plan, in which he rebutted the evidence from the College’s consultant that enrollment at the College was likely to grow at a rate far in excess of national and state population projections.
Today, in Part 2, Willson examines the evidence of a need for more labs.
MCC’s Not Really Science Labs Project
In May 2015, Demonica Kemper presented Phase I of its “Space Planning Study”.
The report says EXPLICITLY in the first slide that it was “not based upon aesthetics, existing facility conditions or enrollment”.
Demonica Kemper said neither the quality of existing facilities nor enrollment were factors in their recommendations.
The presentation went on to address lab utilization “benchmarks” and cited a study of community college science lab usage by Paulien and Associates, which partnered with Demonica Kemper for the MCC project.
The study by Paulien and Associates showed that lab usage ranged between 16 and 32 hours per week.
Paulien also reported that 34 states have guidelines for lab usage, ranging between 24 and 28 hours per week. Note the term: guideline; not a hard-and-fast rule, but only guidelines.
MCC is reported as using their labs 27 hours per week for teaching credit classes (see graphic below), so it is within the “guidelines”.
But there is more to “usage” than hours per week.
A key question is how many students are using the stations available in the labs during the hours the labs are in use. Paulien’s study of 34 states found that usage ranged between 60% and 85% of the stations in the labs during the hours the labs were in use, with a median of 80%.
They found the most common “guideline” was for lab stations to be occupied at 76% to 80% of capacity when in use. Demonica Kemper reported that labs at MCC are used at about 60% of capacity when in use, far below what is possible.
In short, Demonica Kemper and Paulien Associates demonstrated that there is no need to expand the number of labs at MCC, based on current enrollment and utilization.
And here’s one more interesting fact NOT reported by Demonica Kemper but taken from MCC’s annual report. From 2006 through 2012, MCC reports having 38 labs (2015 CAFR, Statistics Section, Table 17).
In 2013, the number of labs suddenly drops to 32. Then in 2014, it increases, but only to 36.
And according to Table 16 of the 2015 CAFR, between 2010 and 2015, average class size at MCC dropped from 20 to 17.
Yet, despite all the data showing that enrollment was flat to declining, the data showing that MCC’s lab utilization hours were within the “guidelines” and that student utilization during class time was far below the average, Demonica Kemper concluded that more lab space was needed, about 5,000 square feet.
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Part 3 on Tuesday.