To the Editor:
McHenry County College says it needs $280 million because it will grow 3 percent a year for the next 40 years. In response to a FOIA request, it provided two pieces of evidence to support this: 1. population in McHenry County grew 3.6 percent a year since 1990; 2. enrollment grew 4 percent a year over the past 10 years.
The first statement is false. Population grew 2.6 percent a year from 1990 through 2010, and only 1.7 percent a year from 2000 through 2010.
The second statement is true only if you carefully pick the endpoints. From 2004 through 2009, enrollment grew only 0.7 percent a year. Since 2010, it has declined about 4 percent. In 2010, there was a one-time jump of 27 percent due to the Promise program.
Pretty thin support for a $280 million expansion. Is there other evidence the college failed to consider?
1. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people 18 and under in Illinois – MCC’s future students – fell by 3.6 percent. The Census Bureau projects that in Illinois, the number of 18- to 24-year-olds will decrease 3.3 percent over the next 20 years.
2. Every school district in McHenry County has declining elementary enrollment. The number of third graders – MCC’s freshmen in 10 years – has fallen by 14 percent from the peak and today is 20 percent smaller than the number of high school seniors.
3. In 20 years or so, even if every high school senior went to MCC, there still wouldn’t be enough new students to meet MCC’s projection. In short, the 3 percent growth rate projection is ludicrous.