College of DuPage may build new classroom building

<p>College of DuPage sign.  |  File photo</p>
College of DuPage | File photo

The College of DuPage Board of Trustees is taking tentative steps toward building a new classroom building, unanimously approving a shift of some of its fund balance from unrestricted to restricted status for the purpose of locking in place the $33 million needed for the facility.

The measure passed recently without comment and both COD President Robert Breuder and Board of Trustees Chair Erin Birt indicated after the vote that the process was still in the beginning stages and no definite decision has been made.

“They’re going to provide us with more information,” Birt said of the college’s Academic Affairs Department about the proposed facility.

If a legitimate need can be demonstrated, the issue could appear before the board for approval as early as late summer and, if approved, a new facility could be built within two years.

In a meeting with local media, Breuder stressed that a decision on a new facility would rest on the recommendation of the Academic Affairs Department and the approval of the board.

But he made it fairly clear what his views are on the subject.

“We don’t have classroom space to spare,” he said, saying that the college’s enrollment has grown in recent years. “We’re in trouble from a space point of view.”

Breuder said that the need was especially critical for physics and biology classes.

The moves come at a time when College of DuPage announced an increase in full-time equivalent student enrollment for the spring term. COD had a 1.8 percent increase for the semester and reported a total head count of 28,100, the highest ever total headcount enrollment for a spring semester.

This increase comes on the heels of a 7.6 percent increase in enrollment in the fall semester.

In 2010, the college went to the voters in a referendum and won approval for $168 million in bonds for the purpose of refurbishing the campus.

Extensive renovations were made on the Physical Education Center, the McAninich Arts Center, the Student Resource Center and the Seaton Computing Center.

The work also included construction of the 66,000-square-foot Homeland Security Education Center, which came with a price tag of $25 million.

The authority to borrow under the 2010 referendum is now exhausted, and with a still-soft economy, college officials are not likely to go back to the voters for more borrowing, even if there is a legitimate need for more classroom space.

To Breuder’s question, “where would we get the money,” the board decided to approve the shift of the money into funds restricted for the specific purpose of building the new facility.

The board’s policy since 2009 has been for the college to maintain an unrestricted fund balance of no less than 50 percent of total operating revenues for a given fiscal year.

As of September 2013 the college’s unrestricted balance was $90.9 million, or 51.3 percent of total operating revenue.

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