14 | COMMUNITY COLLEGE JOURNAL AACC.NCHE.EDU
Therapy Eric Jones (L)
leads students in
a classroom exercise.
COMING OUT OF THE
North Dakota had the highest decline at
14.6 percent; Ohio’s funding fell 0.1 percent, representing the smallest decrease. Twelve states
increased funding by less than two percent, with
18 states seeing increases of more than two percent.
While Florida reported the largest boost in appropriations at 11. 3 percent, the state’s two-year colleges
experienced funding losses.
James Palmer, Grapevine editor and a professor
of higher education at Illinois State University, says
state revenues have not kept up with a burgeoning
national economy, leading to budget shortfalls that
trickled down into the higher education sector.
“It’s hard to be optimistic when you juxta-
pose anemic growth in state funding against a
background of a growing economy,” Palmer says.
“Unlike other public services, higher education
relies on tuition, so it’s easier for legislators to cut
funding in that area over other obligations when
In July 2017, Illinois officials passed a state budget
for the first time since 2015, providing financial relief
for two- and four-year colleges alike. However, the
new plan cut state support for schools by 10 percent
below 2015 levels, a drop-off mitigated by a two-
percent funding increase in 2018.
About 33 percent of Kaskaskia College’s revenue
derives from the state, with tuition, fees and local property taxes covering the remainder, Evans says. During
the budget freeze, ICCB distributed a total of $3 million
in emergency funds to Kaskaskia and six other Illinois
community colleges, a decision based on districts with
the least amount of local property tax funding.
Located 45 minutes east of St. Louis in an agri-culture-heavy region, Kaskaskia has an enrollment
of 4,500 and a focus on career technical training.
Though it’s too early to measure the ramifications
of the new budget, the impasse forced the college to
significantly downsize its programming and faculty.
Kaskaskia endured two runs of layoffs, eliminating 60 non-instructional positions and offering
early retirement packages to several faculty members. The college cut its art and auto collision technology programs, as well as a correctional center
partnership that prepared inmates for post-release
construction, culinary and custodial occupations.
Facing dire circumstances, institution officials
found ways to work around budgetary difficulties,
Evans says. Staff from various departments volunteered for tutoring and service-oriented jobs,
doubling their duties to replace people no longer on
the payroll. Additionally, Kaskaskia saved money by
delaying roof repairs and other maintenance issues
around its 48-acre campus, and waited to retire old
PCs until an influx of cash arrived.
Over the last three years, Kaskaskia received
stopgap funding from the state, relying on over
$6 million in reserves to survive the lean times.
Like many schools in similar situations, Kaskaskia
raised its tuition, hiking fees to $13 per credit hour.
“Things got very scary late in 2016 going into
2017, but we were never in danger of closing our
doors,” Evans says. “What the impasse did is show
the worth of community colleges. We were able to
come out stronger.”
“What the impasse did is show the worth of
community colleges. We were able to come
GEORGE EVANS, president, Kaskaskia College