McHenry County College has worked to meet the educational and vocational needs of the community since it was established by referendum in 1967.
Since its early days when it was housed in the former Pure Oil building at the northeast corner of Route 14 and Main Street in Crystal Lake, the college has grown with the rest of the county, adapting to the changing times and needs of the business community.
MCC has seen its highs and its lows. It has faced countless obstacles, some of them self-created, but usually has overcome them.
The college’s role has grown significantly over the years. It now offers six associate degrees and 17 associate of applied science degrees.
It is, without a doubt, a vital part of the greater McHenry County community.
And it now has reached another formative moment in its history.
Enrollment at MCC has boomed the past few years. More than 7,000 part-time and full-time students take classes on its main campus alone. And projections are that enrollment will continue to rise.
If the college is going to continue to meet the community’s needs, it’s going to have to adapt – and grow – some more.
But the community as a whole – students, taxpayers, business leaders, elected officials – will have to help MCC decide how quickly, and by how much, the college can and will grow.
Thursday night, the school unveiled a long-term master plan to add classrooms, parking, a technology center, an arts center, and other learning centers to its main campus. The first 10 years of that plan is projected to cost $280 million.
By anyone’s standards, $280 million is a lot of money. And that doesn’t include interest on bonds.
Admittedly, it’s going to be an uphill battle to secure funding for a project like this, particularly since taxpayers still are feeling the effects of the Great Recession, and the fiasco surrounding the departure of former college president Walt Packard remains fresh in many people’s minds.
Though college officials hedge when asked about a tax-increase referendum, there’s little doubt that’s what it’s going to take. No capital campaign, no grant program, and no public-private partnership is going to raise that kind of cash.
It’s going to come down to taxpayers having to dig deeper.
And that’s a tough sell right now.
We asked followers of our Facebook page last week whether they would support a slight tax increase to pay for MCC expansion. The responses, some of which you can see on today’s Opinion page, were an overwhelming “no.”
A writer to Northwest Herald’s “It’s Your Write” letters section last week asked members of the community to give the MCC plan a chance.
That’s a fair request.
Listen to or read about the details. If you don’t know, learn the benefits of the college to the community.
It’s also fair – and necessary – to demand that college administrators and board members be completely open about their plans and processes. They have to accept the fact that this plan will have many detractors, and be open and honest about every aspect of it.
We’ll be writing a lot about MCC’s expansion plans in the coming weeks.
If you have some thoughts, please feel free to share them with us.
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Shame on us: A reader who also happens to be a retired employee of the Social Security Administration called recently to clarify what she says is a frequent misunderstanding about how Social Security works.
There’s been an ongoing debate in the “It’s Your Write” letters section of our Opinion page about what constitutes socialism, and whether President Barack Obama’s policies are driving us closer to a socialist nation.
One letter writer, responding to another’s statement that Social Security has been an essentially socialist program, claimed that Social Security is paid to hundreds of thousands of immigrants who never contributed to it. Not true, said the reader, who put me in touch with Carmen Moreno, communications director for the Chicago SSA office.
Moreno confirmed that Social Security is paid out based on an individual’s earnings (and contributions to the system), and that citizenship and residency are required.
Shame on us for allowing the letter writer’s statement to slip through.
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Helping the homeless: Registration remains open for McHenry County PADS/Pioneer Center for Human Services’ SleepOut for Shelter event scheduled for May 12 at Immanuel Lutheran School in Crystal Lake. Participants pay a small entry fee or seek pledges, and then spend the night outside, sleeping under the stars, in tents, boxes or cars.
During the winter months, Pioneer/PADS operates temporary shelters that rotate daily among a number of generous local churches. PADS also provides daytime services designed to transition individuals from homelessness into permanent housing.
It costs about $750,000 each year for Pioneer/PADS to maintain the programming and the temporary shelters, none of which comes from the state. Pioneer/PADS relies on fundraising and the generous donations of local residents to stay afloat.
To register or for information, visit www.sleepoutforshelter.com or call 815-759-7282.
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Best of the Fox: There are just two days left to vote in our annual Best of the Fox contest.
If you’re unfamiliar, Best of the Fox allows area residents to pick their favorites in more than 150 categories, from food, to retail, to service to just about everything.
Log on to NWHerald.com, click on the Best of the Fox link on our home page, and start voting.
As of Saturday evening, more than 318,000 total votes were cast on more than 13,300 submitted ballots.
The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Monday.
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Shameless plug: In case you missed it on Saturday’s Business cover, Northwest Herald journalists are finalists in 40 categories in the Illinois Press Association’s annual Editorial Contest. We always do well in the contest, but this just might be the best showing ever.
We learn places (first, second, third) in June. Congratulations to my entire staff. I’m proud of the work they do.
• Dan McCaleb is senior editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.