Eastern, Lake Land relations need improvement

Steven Oliver, Business Manager

Public higher education institutions in Illinois are in trouble. By now, everyone this affects should be aware of this. If you are not enlightened, check out ‘Illinois Fiscal Failures Continue‘ in February’s Navigator News.
On Lake Land’s campus, some have an air of superiority when they talk about their neighbor, just minutes away in Charleston. Of course, everyone can have bias when it comes to their own interests, but as a student I have been unwillingly subjected to many conversations Eastern Illinois University’s inferiority. As an adult, I have listened and even had to participate in multiple conversations on how and why EIU will close its doors. Those reasons range from Illinois’ fiscal problems to the series of layoffs necessary at Eastern to prevent possible catastrophe.
I aim to address this and look at the publicly available statistics, including those from both colleges. Regarding the layoffs at EIU, sometimes departments are forced to make tough, calculated decisions to ensure they can continue and prosper in the future. One recent example of this is the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Company’s 2015 layoff of 30,000 employees. As of December 2016, the company had effectively doubled its profit while experiencing market-share growth. Sometimes these cuts are necessary for efficiency.
Speaking of profiting, some of Lake Land’s top faculty members have transitioned here from EIU, whether by personal choice or by way of layoffs. I can certainly understand hard feelings from the latter, but per a recent study, 42 % of students choose their college based on recommendations from people they trust. Faculty members trying to sway a student’s decision is unnecessary. Saying that Eastern has nothing more to offer a student after completing their time at Lake Land is simply incorrect. I have personally heard this on Lake Land’s campus recently. When considering further degree programs or experience, that conclusion just doesn’t hold up.
The numbers speak for themselves. My research comes from StateUniversity.com. This website ranked LLC the safest campus in Illinois. Lake Land has also used their numbers and rankings in public advertisement. Eastern’s dropping enrollment has been its biggest problems over the past years. At one point passing 11,000 total students, it currently has an undergraduate population of just under 6,000 students with a total enrollment of approximately 7,400 students. Lake Land’s total on campus enrollment is just over 2,500 students, a number that doubles when you add the online and off-campus programs students are currently enrolled in.
From 2010 until present, both colleges have felt the effects of Illinois’ shrinking student population. Eastern experienced a steady decline of on-campus students since then, according to their website. They have somehow managed to keep numbers steady, suffering losses below 10% of the undergraduate population each year. The loss to their undergraduate population between the fall semesters of 2015 and 2016 were the greatest, losing a total of 17.3 %. Lake Land, on the other hand was enjoying steady population numbers according to their own fall ten-day enrollment report. In fact, Lake Land suffered almost no loss in students until the fall semesters of 2014 and 2015, losing almost 38% of students. Lake Land has since bounced back from that huge loss and allowed only a 6% loss in student population in the fall of 2016. It is also worth noting that Eastern only accepted 63 % of those that applied, while Lake Land has open enrollment admissions.
That’s enough student population statistics, what about the faculty statistics reported of both campuses? Lake Land reports that they have 105 full-time and 215 part-time faculty, with a full-time faculty ratio of 0.5:1. The reported total benefits for those employees come to a total $2,873,899. Eastern Illinois has a reported 571 full-time and 711 part-time employees equaling a full-time faculty ratio of 0.8:1 with their total benefits reported at a staggering $47,582,619.
Eastern does have more available faculty on campus, but Lake Land is better at managing the amount of benefits given to employees.
How do the colleges rank against each other though? Which college manages to score better in student surveys? Lake Land scored well in one of the biggest, Parchment.com, a website and survey used by over 8,000 colleges. In this survey, 78% of students who were admitted to both colleges stated they would attend Lake Land over EIU. The big question that needs to be answered is, would students do it over again? It seems as if Eastern students overwhelmingly agree they would attend again, with 98% satisfaction rate within 1 year of graduation and 99% within 10 years of graduation. A survey of Lake Land alumni with minimal feedback scored 96.3% satisfaction, with 90.9% saying they would attend again if given the choice.
I take great pride in being a student and employee of Lake Land, while also living on EIU’s campus with my fiancé, who is a senior staff member. This information should serve as a beacon of awareness to faculty and students that Lake Land is not superior to its neighbor EIU, nor is it out of the reach of fiscal problems of Illinois. Eastern is a great college, and the people who work at that institution are doing everything in their power to rebuild it back to its glory days. To dismiss it as a lost cause that is “closing” and then belittle it by calling it inferior is an insult to its past, present and future employees and students. Eastern needs the support of its neighbors now more than ever before, because the roles could reverse. The battle for higher education’s future in Illinois has begun and it is one we cannot afford to be divided on. Lake Land College is a leader, but for how long, if it chooses to leave its neighbor behind?

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