Heidi Holan: 2021 candidate for College of DuPage board
Village: Glen Ellyn
Occupation: Legislative assistant
Employer: State of Illinois
Civic involvement: College of DuPage board of trustees; parentalrights.org, former State Coordinator; precinct committeeman; active Wheaton Bible Church member
Q. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A. As a Trustee, it is important for me to uphold the mission of the college, which is: To be a center for excellence in teaching, learning, and cultural experience by providing accessible, affordable, and comprehensive education.
On a personal note, the community college system, in particular the College of DuPage, has greatly impacted my family. All four of us -- me, my husband and our two sons -- have been students at the College of DuPage, each of us possess an Associate Degree, three of them from the College of DuPage.
We have been a part of College of DuPage as active students seeking, and ultimately receiving, the desired affordable and high quality education being provided by this treasured asset within our community known as COD. It is my desire to use my experience, commitment and work ethic to assist in ensuring that this institution stays the course in promoting student success.
I have and will continue to take seriously the fiduciary responsibility a Trustee owes all stakeholders both in the stewardship of finances and quality of education.
Q. How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A. The College of DuPage transitioned quickly from in-person education to online learning for the majority of the students at the onset of the pandemic. It was not easy to take so many courses that were designed to be in person and adapt them to the virtual classroom quickly, but through the hard work of the faculty and administration and the flexibility of the students, we accomplished it. Since then, we have worked diligently to provide quality education using three methods: standard online which includes a variety of student teacher online interaction, online in real time which requires regular face-to-face contact in virtual format, and hybrid courses which combines online learning with hands-on learning experiences in disciplines and vocational fields which require in-person instruction. All of this has been accomplished while prioritizing the safety of our students and employees.
Q. Did your district continue to adequately serve students during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to continue providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A. In addition to ensuring the continuity of education, the College has taken care to ensure that students had the tools to accomplish online learning. Through the responsible allocation of funds available to us via the federal CARES Act, students experiencing financial hardship could receive funds to cover a variety of expenses, including food and housing. Laptops and Wi-Fi hot spots were distributed to students and adjustments were made to ensure needed software was available. A Student Emergency Relief Fund was formed and able to assist many students through efforts of the College of DuPage Foundation.
While the method of delivery may have changed to ensure safety for all, the College continued to provide services such as counseling, financial aid, bookstore, library, and career transition.
Q. Do you have a plan on how to safely and effectively conduct classes in the spring? What have you learned from the fall semester that you would change in the spring?
A. The plan we have in place has been effective, but we continue to evaluate and monitor the results to prepare for any necessary changes. It is a testament to the care and concern of those who have been present on campus that there have been no known transmissions, and as a result, a few more in-person classes were added to this semester.
Q. In tough economic times, many students (and working professionals) turn to a community college for its educational value. How do you ensure that a person's financial sacrifice results in an educational benefit?
A. The College of DuPage continually strives to provide high quality education at an affordable investment in all economic scenarios. Students come to the college with their own unique goals and motivations. It is up to us to provide quality tools and resources to assist them in achieving their vision of student success; whether that take the form of a certificate program for a career change, a class for a hobby enthusiast, or a full-time course load in preparation for a transfer. Our classes and programs go through defined programs of review and data analysis prior to creation, modification or becoming inactive. The classes offered must meet the needs of our students as well as our community. Initiatives such as Guided Pathways and Project-Hire Ed are examples of tools put in place to assist in guiding students on their journey to success.
Q. From the college's point of view, what budget issues will your district have to confront and what measures do you support to address them? If you believe cuts are necessary, what programs and expenses should be reduced or eliminated? On the income side, do you support any tax or fee increases?
A. The College of DuPage, like every publicly supported institution in Illinois, is suffering from a declining population and a state in financial distress. While at this time our financial position is still healthy, we must be prepared to address a future in light of a potential reduction in state funds and must take steps to reverse a declining enrollment trend. A key step toward that end is to focus on full implementation and monitoring of our Strategic Enrollment Management Plan which aligns all resources of the school to focus on bringing in students, retaining them, and promoting student success. At all times it is the duty of Trustees to ensure that we are maximizing all assets with the goal that we continue to provide high quality education at an affordable price. As COD has one of the lowest fees in the state for a community college, and if we are at risk of not being able to fulfill our mission, I would support a small fee increase. I would not support a property tax increase.