Mt. Vernon Register-News

March 15, 2013

College funding looks promising, says RLC Board chairman


INA — — Bryan Drew, the chairman of the Rend Lake College Board of Trustees, told his colleagues Tuesday night that future funding for community colleges is promising.

Drew based that prediction on a recent legislative summit of community college trustees that he recently attended in the nation's capitol.

"I spoke with our congressman and senators and spoke to them about some things, and had some good conversations with them concerning finances," Drew told the Board. "I think the current status of the state of Illinois … you can't be dependent on one source of income in these economic times."

Drew said the feedback from the legislators was "positive."

"Congressman Enyart (Bill) is one individual that comes to mind quickly. He was actually a professor at Southwest. He is a very big proponent of community colleges. Fortunately, I think the administration appears to be very big on community colleges as well," he said.

Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman John Shimkus and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk were also encouraging, according to Drew.

"Congressman Shimkus has always been a very big supporter of this college. We're very fortunate," he added.

Drew said there were good meetings and presenters, and some of the "large, broad strokes from this Sequester will not continue, especially as it relates to aid for students." Drew added, "They (legislators) are doing everything they can, and hopefully, they will get that done. It was very good."

The college recently withdrew from the Federal Direct Student Loan program, effective with this summer's semester. According to administrative rationale, it is in the best interest of the college and its students for the financial aid office to focus on assistance for available gift aid and alternative loans due to changes in Federal Direct Loan Policy. The implementation of three-year cohort default rates has significantly increased default rates at many institutions, including Rend Lake College.

“We think it's critical that we remove ourselves from this program to help most of our students the best way we can,” said Vice-Chair Ed Cunningham. “The rules have come down, which could take away our Pell grant if we continue with it, we believe will have a much bigger impact on our students, the college and what we can provide for the community. It's a hard decision, but we have to do the right thing for the students.”

“We will still be Pell-eligible to provide student loans … through alternative lenders,” added RLC President Terry Wilkerson. “Everything for our students, for the most part, is not going to change. We are just not going to participate in this particular program.”

 “I want to make sure everyone understands this is not something we wish to do,” Cunningham said, “but we believe, with the changes in the law, we are forced to do for the betterment of our students.”

In other news reported at Tuesday's meeting: