WEB EXCLUSIVE: ICCB may reinstate RVC’s status

n May keep college on short lease

Rock Valley College (RVC) may be given back full-recognition status Friday by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), RVC’s governing agency. However, there are strings attached and revelations in ICCB administrators’ recommendation comments to ICCB board members.

ICCB downgraded RVC’s recognition status in 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 may be returned to full-recognition status, ICCB has also recommended keeping RVC on a short leash. ICCB officials are asking for permission to conduct an ICCB initiated financial audit of RVC sometime after July1 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.

Joe Cipfl, ICCB president and chief executive officer said he informed former RVC President Roland Chapdelaine’s office of ICCB administrators’ recommendation last Friday.

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 college’s 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 Additionally, in all adult education courses reviewed, students withdrawn at midterm were being claimed for full reimbursement.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 the 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 and $15.6 million Classroom Building III)].

“Considering the progress that has been made and the remaining problem areas, the ICCB staff is recommending that the college’s recognition status be returned to ‘recognition continued,’ but that the college undergo a complete reevaluation 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.” the ICCB recommendation reads.

Johnson said he appreciated the ICCB’s findings, welcomes the ICCB recommendations and that RVC has already taken some steps to address ICCB’s concerns. RVC Board Chairman Randy Schaefer echoed Johnson’s sentiments.

Chapdelaine characterized the ICCB’s downgrade of RVC as a “slap on the wrist” in a February 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, RVC placed a full-page advertisement in the Sunday, March 2, 2003 issue, 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.

RVC’s full recognition status may become official Friday when the ICCB board votes on the issue in Springfield.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!