Local nursing programs face high demand, low budgets

By Nina Gougis

Because of a decline in state funding, Illinois community colleges won’t expand crowded programs to keep up with increasing student enrollment, school officials said.

Although they won’t reduce the number of available classes, high demand programs such as nursing won’t expanded to keep up with growth.

School officials from Waubonsee Community College and Kishwaukee College said it would be too costly to expand these programs.

“Adequate funding would allow us to expand our programs. Unfortunately, we are not able to do that,” Kishwaukee College President Dave Louis said.

The number of nursing program applicants has increased for both schools in the past few years. As a result, colleges have placed students on two- to three-year waiting lists, said Heather Peters, director of Kishwaukee College’s nursing program.

Nursing programs are one of the most costly government-subsidized programs, said Wayne Stone, vice president of Planning, Quality and Organizational Development for Waubonsee Community College.

Stone said community college nursing programs are required to keep a 10-to-one student-to-instructor ratio for clinicals.

Since most money for instructors comes from state funding, finding additional funds to pay for teachers during pay cuts would be extremely difficult.

Faced with budget cuts and increased student enrollment, both colleges have had to increase tuition and depend more on other sources of revenue.

Kishwaukee College officials decided to raise tuition $3 per credit hour. In addition, officials expect more tuition dollars coming in from the increased student enrollment, Louis said.

It’s still not enough to cover the loss in state funding, he said.

Stone said Waubonsee Community College has had a negligible increase in tuition and has depended more on property taxes from local communities.

“We have not been hurt as much as other schools because our support from state funding is relatively low,” Stone said.

Louis said when it comes to getting into programs, students should apply early and visit their department to make sure they meet all criteria.