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Program cuts come to Southeastern Illinois College

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HARRISBURG, Ill. (WSIL) -- The Southeastern Illinois College board met this week to vote on a proposal to cut programs due to a drop in enrollment, and under-funding from the state.

Organizers of a campaign to save the Art Program spoke at that meeting and even though they were prepared for the cuts, it doesn't change their "hope, Art returns to Campus."

Art Instructor Sara DeNeal spoke with News 3 over Zoom Thursday morning, from her "classroom" at home where she has logged hours of online instruction during the pandemic.

"At this point we have been honorably dismissed from our positions and we will do our best to urge the board to reinstate those positions," says DeNeal.

Even as storms moved through the region Tuesday, DeNeal says the meeting moved forward and despite arriving with more than 1,000 signatures on a petition to save her program, the proposal to make cuts passed.

"At the end of the school year, there will be no more Art program," says DeNeal.

These aren't the first on-campus course eliminations she's seen in her seven years at SIC, she fears for the school, they won't be the last. "I believe that each time they cut programs, it will effect future enrollment."

The school says the cuts are in response to under-funding and smaller enrollment and without them, the school would experience a structural deficit.

News 3 spoke with State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) on the cuts to the community college, an institution he says is important in growing businesses in the community.

"We want to grow our opportunities for our students, we don't want to cut opportunities for our students," says Fowler.

The lawmaker says the SIC Board had a difficult vote to make and he was watching with the same concern as others with a desire for an alternative outcome.

"Sometimes you have to make the hard decision," says Fowler on favoring keeping the programs. "To grow you have to create more opportunities, and I realize they have tough decisions to make forthcoming."

He adds that the community will feel those cuts, which could lead to students choosing to go elsewhere, or not at all; a sentiment shared by DeNeal, who says she still "hold-out hope" the board will bring Art back.

The board meeting included an opportunity for discussions on the cuts and DeNeal says she feels it did have an effect; however, "It just wasn't enough."

Those programs cut will continue through the end of the Spring semester.
Students will have an online component available after that. There is no timetable for the Board to revisit the possibility of reinstating the courses to their campus.

Joe Rehana

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