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Parkland gets promised state money after 20 years 


Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette
July 15, 2011
By Paul Wood

CHAMPAIGN — Parkland College has finally received money, $24 million, first promised to it 20 years ago to pay for projects that will allow it to register more students.

President Tom Ramage said capital appropriations of $15.44 million for the Student Services addition and $9.18 million for its already-started Applied Technology addition came through at the same time that Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon visited Thursday to hear from students, parents and staff at a roundtable.

"These requests go back about 20 years," Ramage said. "We had some of the money, but on these two projects, the state matches 75 percent of costs."

The Applied Technology addition is expected to be finished in the spring of 2012 and Student Services in December 2013.

The appropriations numbers were stalled in appellate court in January. In late June, legislators voted to release the funds after an effort to attach $430 million in other spending designations angered some.

Ramage said the additions to the 1960s-designed Parkland campus, which went decades without significant growth, are necessary to increase enrollment. The college's student body has grown 22 percent in the last five years.

"We went 12 years without a capital bill; then we were not fully funded. This is a great week," Ramage said.

The funding to pay for the additions also includes $47 million locally raised, as well as $10 million in student fees.

"We did it with hardly an effect on the (Parkland) tax rate — the last two years, the tax rate has gone down," Ramage added.

Ramage said the new space is no luxury.

"Basically, we had no classroom space available at peak times.

"Still, to this day, we have zero office space. The next fiscal year, we will hire three new staff members, after we've weathered through lean times," the president said.

Ramage praised a bipartisan effort that included state Reps. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, and Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, and Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, as well as college trustees who worked through educational associations.

At Parkland, administrators showed Simon the college's newest initiative, called First Year Experience.

First Year Experience, which the college describes as an "intrusive and centralized advising program which interacts with first-time, degree-seeking students from the time they submit an application throughout their first year at Parkland."

Before FYE, there was no central time or place for admission resources, and no required orientation, Parkland's administrators told the lieutenant governor.