McHenry County College board candidates agree more online learning opportunities and catering to nontraditional students are key to the college's future growth.
Incumbent Linda Liddell of Crystal Lake and challengers Diane Evertsen of Harvard, George Lowe of Cary, and David Schenk of Marengo are vying for two 6-year seats April 4.
Thomas Allen dropped out, but his name remains on the ballot.
Liddell, 63, president of the Illinois Community College Trustee Association, said MCC was among the first community colleges nationwide to offer Massive Open Online Courses, commonly known as MOOCs.
"MCC was one of the first in the country to have a MOOC available from a community college," she said. "In the last month we were recognized, of community colleges offering online certifications or degrees, we came in sixth-lowest of all community colleges across the country for the cost of a quality education using our online tools. We also are doing a lot with blended technologies, blended classroom environments."
Getting the cost of textbooks down to make college more affordable is another area where community colleges need to focus, she added.
Evertsen, 72, a retired Realtor, said adult learners who want to learn for pleasure or those seeking to enhance skills to help with careers, benefit from distance learning.
"I think it's a good idea to add as much as we possibly can on the internet," she said.
Lowe, who previously served three terms on the MCC board and was a Cary village trustee, said he'd like to see online courses expanded, especially for seniors and nontraditional students.
Schenk, who works in international logistics, said while he believes MCC offers a sufficient array of course choices, there is room for expansion with online learning and professional certifications.
"They have a technology infrastructure. ... I would like to see that they take those resources and expand what they can do for the students and faculty, and support what they do in developing the curriculum and how they deliver the material," he said.
The candidates weighed in on state funding and MCC's financial stability.
Liddell said with the state's financial woes balancing budgets will be challenging.
"McHenry County (College) really didn't count on the three-legged stool for funding and that has served us well the last four or five years," she said. "We will be absolutely looking at what else we're going to have to do to make sure we keep a balanced budget. We will not be like the state. We're not anticipating anything from the state."
To make up for that couple of million dollars worth of loss, officials will take a closer look at curriculum and services to identify where they can find efficiencies, she added.
Liddell said MCC has kept its tax levy flat for the last few years but added that a future increase cannot be ruled out.
Schenk said he would not support any tax increase.
"We've been hearing a lot about the population of Illinois declining," he said, noting that future costs might require alternative methods of delivering curriculum and fundraising through the Friends of MCC Foundation and the community.
Lowe suggested college officials consider looking for grants and donations from people in the community to offset state funding.
Evertsen said relying on state funding isn't an option.
"The money isn't there," she said. "If we want to provide a viable service, we have to form better partnerships with other schools. We have to engage teachers and administrative staff. Let's get creative ... form partnerships with legislators ... focus in a different direction. You can't jack up tuition too high and can't tax the public too much either."