- By Brad Baber, former candidate for the Joliet Junior College Board of Trustees.
At Joliet Junior College's May 10 board meeting there was much heated discussion. The board voted to table the vote to move forward with the $43 million City Center project until their next workshop meeting, which is May 31. During heated debate, three board members took issue with the plan doubling the size of the culinary and hospitality programs, when no studies or statistics are available to show what the success rate is of current graduates.
While many schools track the success of their graduates in these programs, and track employment as a measure of this success, JJC has not. Therefore, the level of expansion of these programs, and this spending of taxpayer money is not justified in any practical way.
This expansion level was based solely on perceived course demand an input of those departments. Additionally, there were objections by several board members to allocating $400,ooo-plus for the Sheridan Hotel, which is planned to be torn down shortly after the new building is built. Two board members also wanted to see an additional floor added to the new building, which would cost an estimated additional $8 million.
Although the board voted to table this vote to allow for additional discussion on minor tweaks like the $400K+ for the hotel, it was made clear in the discussion that at least five of the board members are in favor of the overall plan. Three board members were also concerned that JJC does not have the state portion of the money in hand—$23.8 million, yet a majority of board members still seem intent on pushing forward.
They will likely vote on and pass the plan either at the May 31 workshop meeting or the June 14 board meeting. On an additional note, JJC President, Dr. Proulx commented on the quick email survey of the current culinary graduates. Only 17 out of 120 or so responded to the survey. She indicated that the results did now show a high level of success. She did try to find a silver lining however saying that comments from these 17 respondents were positive in that "they would not be where they are today without the culinary program."
One department head of Culinary who was present cited a few successful graduates who work up in Chicago at prestigious locals (outside of our district). Dr. Proulx also indicated that 65 percent of people living in Will County commute outside of Will County for employment. She confirmed that there is a lack of good paying culinary jobs in the JJC district and most have to go outside of district for good employment.
So given this, why should taxpayers of our district pay $43 million for an unjustified program expansion which doesn't have jobs to fill in district? The college may be doing our youth a disservice (doubling the size of the program) by encouraging them to enter a degree which may actually show little or no significant opportunity for long term employment. Are they also doing our taxpayers a disservice when all indicators show little to no return for the district?