The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

April 23, 2013

DACC sports teams see reprieve

Programs get 1 more season

BY CAROL ROEHM
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — The Danville Area Community College board of trustees, which has been grappling with a shortfall in revenue and an increase in expenditures, will allow three athletic programs — soccer, volleyball and golf — to continue for one more season.

Suspending the three athletic programs will save the college more than $200,000 a year; however, tuition waivers already promised still will be honored.

DACC President Alice Marie Jacobs said Tuesday night suspending the programs would save the college $83,000 in direct programming expenses, $48,000 in health insurance costs and an additional $100,000 in tuition waivers.

“These are difficult financial times. Over the last 10 years, every area (of the college) has been reduced,” Jacobs said, adding that 20 full-time administrative and support staff positions have been eliminated through retirements and attrition.

“Athletics is one area that has not been reduced,” she said.

In the end, DACC’s board of trustees voted 4-3 to approve an amendment suggested by trustee Dr. Ron Serfoss to allow the three athletic programs to continue for one more season, suspending them at their end of their respective seasons. Trustees Dick Cheney, John O’Rourke and Vickie Miller cast the dissenting votes.

“It’s of concern to me that we’ve made a commitment to these students,” Serfoss said when suggesting his amendment.

Several people who spoke out against the proposal to immediately suspend the three athletic programs questioned the timing of the decision, saying prospective first-year players already had passed up recruitment opportunities with other schools to come to DACC.

Adnan Abdelghani, who played soccer for Danville Junior College in 1979, said that three of his children played on DACC’s soccer team and he was hopeful that his youngest son, who is involved with the Danville Area Soccer Association, would have the same opportunity as his siblings.

“The (soccer) program is very important to the community,” he said. “Without this program, we’ve taken away the opportunity for our kids to play at home and get their education at home.”

Beth Winn of Tolono, the mother of freshman soccer player Ben Winn, said the reason her son chose DACC “was so he could play soccer and pursue his education.”

“These athletes are here to pursue their goals and dreams,” she said. “Eliminating sports is taking away from the kids.

“The timing of this … the rosters are full and the recruiting is done (for the year) at the college level,” Winn said. “We will not stay here if the soccer program is gone.

“It’s not about tuition waivers; it’s about pursuing his dreams,” she said.

Chris Shaw of Westville, whose daughter Kaitie is a DACC volleyball recruit, said, “There are graduating (high school) seniors who wanted to play for DACC and wanted to be a Lady Jaguar.

“Their hearts have been torn apart,” Shaw said. “The timing couldn’t be more horrific. They passed other opportunities to stay home (and attend DACC).”

Back in the 1980s, DACC suspended some sports programs due to financial reasons, but reinstated them in the 1990s when the economy improved.

Also on Tuesday night, the trustees approved a $10-per-credit-hour increase in tuition.

With the $10 increase, the tuition cost will increase to $120 from $110 per credit hour plus universal fees.

Last year, the board of trustees approved a $3 per-credit-hour increase in tuition and in 2011, a $6 increase.

Jacobs said the tuition increase will generate $400,000 in new revenue for the college.

“Our financial situation is very challenging,” Jacobs said.

College officials have said the tuition increase and the eventual suspension of sports programs were necessary due to DACC’s financial outlook.

The Illinois Community College Board has informed community colleges around the state to prepare for budget cuts over the next three years of 5 percent, 5 percent and 13 percent. The State of Illinois also owes DACC $2.5 million in payments.

Also, the college depends heavily on part-time instructors and under the Affordable Health Care Act, DACC will have to start offering insurance to employees working 30 hours or more, which will cost the college an additional $11,000 to $12,000 per employee.

Pension reform, in which the state could shift pension responsibility to the school district, has college officials concerned, too.

Locally, the college district’s equalized assessed valuation has dropped by 4 percent four years in a row. Jacobs said the total loss over four years in local tax dollars amounts to $839,000.

College officials are carefully analyzing every position and evaluating every program, service and extracurricular activity on campus.

In other business on Tuesday, the trustees:

Carle Medical Center and other local health care employers asked DACC to develop a program to train people not only to be an office worker but also to do the intake work on patients, such as recording a patient’s weight and blood pressure.