Technical Degrees Are "Hidden Gems"

January 24, 2013

During its January board meeting, the Southeastern Illinois College Board of Trustees heard reports that anticipated job growth will be more in the occupational and technical fields of study or two-year degrees, as opposed to many baccalaureate fields of studies or four-year degrees in upcoming years.

Sited was a CNBC news story from Dec. 30 titled, “In the Math of Education, Two Years Sometimes is Worth More than Four Years.”

Mark Schneider, president of and a vice president at the American Institutes for Research was interviewed as saying, “…we’ve tended to think that the bachelor’s degree is the only thing that matters, and this data tells us that technical degrees from community colleges are hidden gems.”

Studies by CollegeMeasures, showed that between 2006 and 2010, students earning an occupational/ technical associate’s degrees out-earned many of their four-year degree counterparts.  This may be due to a high demand for nurses, computer specialists, mechanical technicians, and the like.  Additionally, the Census Bureau found those with science and engineering degrees were also more likely to be employed full time.

“Southeastern has a wide variety of career and technical education programs designed to prepare students for employment upon graduation.  These programs focus on hands-on instruction and practical application of knowledge,” said Dr. Dana Keating, vice president for academic and student affairs. 

“Our instructors come with strong educational backgrounds, but also with years of experience working in business and industry.  They are well-prepared to equip students with work-place skills,” said Keating.

Other News

Southeastern’s dean of career and technical education, Karen Weiss, gave the board an update on the second year of the Title III grant.  Funds from the grant have benefitted the College’s online programs and resources providing additional courses, additional online library resources, and improved instructional technology to assist in piloting the new courses and services.

“Through the grant, we have been able to accomplish much through the upgrade of the College’s internet bandwidth and update of the College’s website to increase student access,” said Weiss.  “This past October (2012), we started the third year of the five year grant, and are excited about the opportunities that the grant offers to ensure Southeastern Illinois College’s position as one of the leading community colleges in the state with regard to online learning.”

An online business degree was added to the online degree offerings this semester and a new online criminal justice degree is anticipated for fall.

Additionally, starting this month, Southeastern is participating in a cooperative bachelor’s completion program in business management through Mid-Continent University out of Mayfield, Ky., utilizing the videoconference classroom. Instructors will alternate teaching from SIC and Shawnee Community College, and students can attend at the location they find most convenient.

“This cooperative arrangement will allow students an opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree while attending classes close to home,” said Gina Sirach, Interim Dean of Academic Services.

The classes are conveniently scheduled in the evenings and are geared to meet the needs of working adults who are 24 years of age or older and already have an associate degree. It also provides an alternative for those students less comfortable with online degrees.  The accelerated degree track can be earned in approximately 18 months.

Financial News

Though late state payments seem to have become the new normal, SIC finds itself waiting on nearly $3 million in state funds.  SIC president, Dr. Jonah Rice, said he didn’t recall the state being so far behind over the past decade. 

"We really don’t want to reduce programs for students,” said Rice.  "The biggest strain is on our staff. We have a phenomenal staff at Southeastern --they're very committed. But it's a strain when you can't replace some positions that have to remain open, simply because you're worried about cash flow management."

Adding to the financial stress of late state payments, the board learned that according to a budget projection released by Gov. Quinn, a proposed education budget cut of 4.6 percent is likely for next year.

The annual audit was presented and accepted with some discussion regarding newly applied accounting standards from 2003.


SIC Theatre will present Streetcar Named Desire on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. in the George T. Dennis Visual & Performing Arts Center.

On Feb. 28, SIC will host the annual business skills competition and computer information systems spotlight day for area high school students interested in those career paths.

The nursing department will host a nursing and allied health spotlight day for area high school students on March 8 on the SIC Harrisburg campus.

Faculty in the math and science division are planning an April 22 “STEM” Day targeting district high school students interested in science, technology, engineering and math.  A variety of hands-on activities related to relevant topics will be provided for students attending the event.

Personnel and Advisory Boards

Dr. Cathy Robb resigned her position as career and technical education academic advisor, effective Jan. 7, to accept a position at Oakland City University.  Dr. Robb will, however, maintain her position as adjunct online business professor.

Beth Wead of Ridgway has accepted the position of Title III technical administrative assistant.  Wead holds a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from the University of Southern Indiana and has worked as an accounting systems analyst with United Companies, Inc. in Evansville, Ind.

The board approved the part-time employment of Marsha Humphrey from Crossville as the adult basic education / GED coordinator.

Cory Yeager of Billman Trucking in Marion was approved by the board to be added to the Diesel Technology Business Advisory Council.

Several new adjunct professors were also approved by the board of trustees:  Kari Hernandez, Tiffany Willis, Kristien Hamilton, Susan Bevis and Heather Darby.                                                                                

The next board meeting will be Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. in the Rodney J. Brenner Board Room at SIC.