Rock Valley College (RVC) was returned to full-recognition status last Friday by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), RVCs governing agency in an 8-0 vote. However, there are strings attached and revelations in ICCB administrators comments to ICCB board members.
ICCB downgraded RVCs recognition status last February after four consecutive years of filing late and inaccurate financial information. It was the first time a locally funded and operated community college received such a dubious distinction.
Although RVC was returned to full-recognition, ICCB will also keep RVC on a short leash. ICCB officials plan to conduct a financial audit of RVC sometime after July 1 and a complete recognition evaluation in fiscal year 2006, which starts July 1, 2005.
Normally, ICCB conducts recognition evaluations on a five-year cycle for different criteria in different years. ICCB officials have monitored RVC closely every year since fiscal year 2001.
ICCBs Jan. 16 action comes on the heels of the RVC Board of Trustees firing of former RVC President Roland Chapdelaine Jan. 13 in a 7-0 vote. The RVC board did not specify reasons they fired Chapdelaine. However, The Rock River Times had been detailing much of Chapdelaines management problems since September of 2002.
The ICCB recommendation reads: The college administration has recently implemented a quarterly internal financial reporting procedure to the board of trustees. While this is an improvement over the past practice, it is strongly recommended that monthly financial reports be presented to the board of trustees. This recommendation was also strongly supported by the colleges external auditors in their discussions with ICCB staff.
RVC trustee Chris Johnson said monthly financial reports are already being given to the RVC board by Sam Overton, RVC chief financial officer and board treasurer.
The ICCB recommendation continues: Although significant progress has been made, areas of concern still exist. A review of credit hour claims revealed a problem with the college claiming reimbursement for ineligible credit hours generated by students who were repeating courses. It appears that a manual check for ineligible repeats has not been taking place. Additionally, in all adult education courses reviewed, students withdrawn at midterm were being claimed for full reimbursement.
A second major area of concern is that as the college began to get better control of its financial information, the college in fiscal year 2003 went from an original budgeted operating surplus of approximately $500,000 to an actual operating deficit of approximately $3.7 million.
For fiscal year 2004, the college has budgeted an operating deficit of approximately $1.8 million. The local board of trustees has instructed college staff to develop a balanced operating budget for fiscal year 2005.
Significant cost overruns have been encountered in recent capital construction projects amounting to $8 to $9 million. The college has not requested, as required by ICCB rules, budgetary approval from the ICCB for these increased costs. Due to these cost overruns, the college may encounter difficulty meeting its local match requirements on future state-funded projects [such as the proposed $32.5 million Arts Instruction Center (AIC) and $15.6 million Classroom Building III)], the ICCB recommendation reads.
Joe Cipfl, ICCB president and chief executive officer, acknowledged the $8 million to $9 million in construction cost overruns did not include final construction costs for the $12.6 million Starlight Theater. Starlights costs are expected Jan. 27, according to RVCs Chief Financial Officer Sam Overton.
Johnson said the RVC Foundation, the private money-generating arm of the college, has accepted responsibility for raising money for the AIC.
The ICCB report concluded: Considering the progress that has been made and the remaining problem areas, the ICCB staff is recommending that the colleges recognition status be returned to recognition continued, but that the college undergo a complete re-evaluation over the next two years. A financial audit should be conducted in fiscal year 2005, and a complete recognition evaluation conducted in fiscal year 2006.
Johnson said he appreciated the ICCBs findings, welcomes the ICCB recommendations and that RVC has already taken steps to address ICCBs concerns. RVC Board Chairman Randy Schaefer echoed Johnsons sentiments.
Chapdelaine characterized the ICCBs downgrade of RVC as a slap on the wrist in a Feb. 22, 2003, article in the Rockford Register Star. In response to news of the downgrade in The Rock River Times and other local news media, Chapdelaine placed a full-page advertisement in the Sunday, March 2, 2003, issue of the Rockford Register Star, which may have cost taxpayers as much as $8,386.29.
The state-run East St. Louis State Community College was the only other community college to be similarly scrutinized by ICCB for financial and record keeping lapses. In 1996, the state fired all 154 employees of East St. Louis State Community College and reopened it under local control.
Cipfl said Jan.9 he informed Chapdelaine of ICCB administrators recommendation. Cipfl said it was Chapdelaines responsibility to notify trustees, such as Schaefer, of the boards recommendation.
Schaefer learned of the ICCBs recommendation at about 6 p.m. Jan. 9, when The Rock River Times informed Schaefer. Schaefer said Chapdelaine had not contacted him Jan.9.
Chapdelaine took sick leave Jan. 6 through 12 but was reported by numerous sources to be loading boxes of items into his car the weekend of Jan. 10-11. By the morning of Jan. 13, hours before the RVC board removed Chapdelaine from office, sources said Chapdelaines office was empty.
Interviews for interim president are expected to be conducted this week. Schaefer said the interim president will serve until a new president can be chosen. Schaefer hopes a new president will take the helm by the beginning of fall semester, which begins in late August.
Former Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Cheryl Krakow is now the acting president of RVC.