DuPage Co. (ECWd) -
The November 11, 2015 College of DuPage Courier published a report titled Collins: "There was no ill intent". The article focused on the awarding of credit hours for the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy (SLEA) and provides insight into Collins’ mindset and judgement. As we have done with many publications, we must also evaluate and fact check some of Collins’ statements made to the Courier’s News Editor, Kelly Wynne.
Collins stated that, “There was no ill intent”. Without defining "ill" the statement can be very misleading and draws readers to the assumption that nothing was done wrong.
Although Collins claims no 'ill' intent, let's be very clear on one thing, there certainly was intent.
What was that intent?
- Intent to increase enrollment numbers.
- Intent to justify the construction of a $16 million dollar gun range for cadets, not tuition paying students.
- Intent to justify $750+ thousand per annum in SLEA salaries.
- Intent to justify an additional $175-$225 million dollar commitment for a Midwest Regional Training Center (MRTC), a.k.a., Homeland Security Training Center (HTC), a.k.a., Homeland Security Training Institute (HSTI). (Daily herald report)
Who knew the following?
"Competitive pricing has been established for all training modules, courses and credential programs to be housed within the HTC. The gross revenue in years one and two is anticipated at $1,370,012.00 each year. Additionally, we expect HTC to increase credit enrollment within the SLEA Basic Academy, Criminal Justice programs as well as other dually offered credit courses made possible by the HTC. This additional credit revenue and apportionment is projected to come in at $174,980.00 each year for years one and two putting the total HTC gross revenue at $1,544,992.00. Total expenses related to operating the HTC and conducting all new programs at $1,445,252.00 resulting in an approximate net $99,000.00 in years one and two". (See HSTI Business Plan, p. 11).
WOW! Looks Great on Paper!
Was Glaser's comment to the Daily Herald the first red flag?
"That's sort of a like a Disneyland for cops," said Tom Glaser, vice president of administrative affairs.
Some may argue his "programmatic justification" was drafted at Disneyland.
If only the business acumen of COD’s senior management team (SMT) was worthy, then students and tax payers really would have benefited from ‘running the college like a business’. According to Collins, “[SLEA] doesn’t make us money, it actually costs us money, but it provides great benefit.”
So now that we have a confirmation from the Interim President that SLEA doesn't make COD money, what is going to be done to the people that prepared a business plan used to justify spending millions in tax payer dollars for a facility they claimed would make money, that is not? Is that not another example of the taxpayers being lied to?
No one has ever contested the benefit of training municipal police officers. However, it is time for COD to be honest with taxpayers of District 502 and reveal the actual annual cost, which is estimated to be well over a million dollars. Please note that is more than twice what the Waterleaf was costing the taxpayers and we justified closing that facility!
More importantly, it is time to explain why COD SMT believed it was useful to leverage SLEA in a way that supported a $156,187,000.00 (yes million) commitment to what would have been Breuder’s largest vanity project, a "Disneyland for cops". (Glaser programmatic justification)
Did COD stand for College of Defense in Breuder's mind?
I wonder if Collins or any other member of the SMT would accept hemorrhaging money from their own account as long as it ‘provided a great benefit’? Many will argue they would, considering the great benefit they identified for themselves with the Waterleaf.
“While the additional credits have been portrayed as a miscount of COD’s enrollment, COD is just one of many institutions to award SLEA with college credits. Nine credits are given to SLEA at Parkland College in Champaign.”
This adolescent logic is reminiscent of a child who believes that what they are doing is okay, because others are doing the same. The public should expect more from those adults who occupy administrative and Board of Trustee positions. Collins conveniently excludes the Police Training Institute (PTI) operating on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus, it offers no academic credit for its academy graduates.
Collins states that, “A common claim is that SLEA credit hours have been used to exaggerate COD’s enrollment to secure extra state funding. Collins does not believe this was deliberate.”
According to the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), COD improperly provided academic credit to cadets who do not enjoy student status. Is Collins suggesting that the ICCB and HLC are making claims? Their reports and requirement to return apportionment seem a bit stronger than ‘claims’.
Because College of DuPage is enrolling SLEA cadets in criminal justice courses, they are counted as students. While currently the police forces that recruit the prospective police officers pay for all of their training in the SLEA, these “students” could be eligible for Title IV financial aid. Therefore, there is the potential for these “students” to receive federal and state financial aid for 22 credits in violation of the federal credit hour definition (HLC/COD Team Report, p. 38).
Generating Credit Hours for State Funding: A midterm certification is a requirement for a course to generate credit hours for funding ICCB Administrative Rule 1501.507(c)(1) states that “Students shall be certified by their instructors as being in attendance at midterm by including a certification statement on the midterm class roster, signed and dated by the instructor”. The midterm certifications for the courses that the SLEA students were enrolled in were not signed by an instructor. The COD Program Administrator signs the midterms for the courses in which SLEA students will receive credit (ICCB Findings, October 2015, p. 2).
It is no accident that the Program Administrator, Tom Brady, willingly accepted responsibility for signing off on midterm and ultimately final grades. Certification of those grades was the very reason that former Program Manager, Dan Maloney, resigned. He knew that singing for those grades was improper and likely fraudulent.
It is impossible to know what anyone was thinking at the time, but the facts don’t lie about the actions and consequence. The increase in credit hours bolstered enrollment on paper only.
September 5, 2014 Email ~ 12:19 p.m: Joseph Cassidy sends email to Executive VP Joseph Collins, VP Student Affairs, and Vice President of Planning and Institutional Effectiveness, James Bente, indicating that there is “Great News! The SLEA Academy equity increase adds 6% to the total. We had not been counting this CJ increase as a done deal. Thus our prediction of 2% did not take this into account. Taken together, CE will likely end up 10% to 11% up from last year. Dan and team are out again today canvasing the district to work with partners on testing and registering students.” (Click here for e-mail chain)
Again, it’s not possible to look into anyone’s mind, but between the HTC business plan, “. . .we expect HTC to increase credit enrollment within the SLEA Basic Academy, Criminal Justice programs as well as other dually offered credit courses made possible by the HTC. This additional credit revenue and apportionment is projected to come in at $174,980.00 each year for years one and two. . .” (See HSTI Business Plan, p. 11), and Collins’ emails, a rational minded person can draw their own conclusions.
September 9, 2014 Email ~ 9:33 a.m: Executive VP, Joseph Collins, sends email to James Bente, Robert Breuder, and Senior Management Team (SMT), “. . .I want to point out two great performances. Dual Credit showed an increase of 132 FTE (a 36% increase over last fall) and Continuing ED ABE/ESL/GED had an increase of 136 FTE (a 14% increase over last fall). These two areas together resulted in a combined increase of 268 FT. If they had come in even with last year, we would be up only about 25 FTE, or 0.15%. I know these two areas were pushed hard to try to better last year’s performance (which was also excellent, by the way) and they came through with flying colors. Hats off to Jean, Emmanuel Awuah and Joe Cassidy". (Page 4 of 5 for this e-mail)
“I know some people thought we were padding our enrollment by SLEA, which I find to be nowhere near accurate,” said Collins. “There was no intent, as far as I can tell, of anyone doing anything wrong. They were just trying to get more credits for their students.”
Either Collins doesn’t read his own emails closely or is being dishonest. How is it that he expresses his adulation over the increased full-time enrollment numbers (FTE) if there was no ‘intent’ ? He is at least being honest about wanting to get more credits, but NOT for STUDENTS. Those attending SLEA are cadets, NOT COD students. Most are from outside the district and pay nothing in tuition. Interchangeably using student and cadet is a remarkably convenient way for COD administrators to blur the lines between SLEA and tuition paying students, which according to the Higher Learning Commission is a, “. . .violation of the federal credit hour definition” (HLC / COD Team Report, p. 38).
“Some newspapers are making a big deal about us losing the $80,000.00 a year, but the governor said to one of the community college presidents, we may not even get half our funding this year, which would be $7 million. What’s $100,000.00 compared to $7 million? I think the whole SLEA funding thing was blown out of proportion to begin with. For us, it’s not a big issue.”
This statement suggests that Collins believes that he is above the law and the tenets set forth by COD’s Mission. The SLEA credit debacle and other malfeasance (e.g., wine and food consumption) is about honesty, integrity and miscarriages of trust by those who were hired to be good stewards of the tax payer’s capital. Most people reading this article would lose sleep over losing $80,000.00, especially if it was not theirs to lose. It must be nice to have so much money laying around that $80,000.00 a year is no “big deal.”
Collins conveniently co-mingles the matter of the State withholding $7 million in funding and fails to explain that such an action is a state budget matter, but one can only wonder if it is also tied to excessive accumulated reserves and the subversive effort by Breuder to pressure former Governor Pat Quinn into disbursing the $20 million in state funds.
It’s probably about time that the COD Board of Trustees assess what the actual budget is and like most families throughout the district there won’t be a reserve without strict budgeting, and fewer vacations and excesses that would otherwise be enjoyed.
We believe that Collins spoke candidly to the Courier, believing that he was among friends who would carry a message of reassurance to COD students, faculty, and the general public. Unfortunately, his competency, judgment and integrity are now more in question than ever.