College of DuPage to pay state thousands after wrongly counting law enforcement academy enrollment

The College of DuPage will miss out on hundreds of thousands of state dollars after a draft report showed the school was wrongfully counting students at the on-campus Suburban Law Enforcement Academy for funding purposes.

The report, delivered by the Illinois Community College Board on Oct. 7, said the college had been inflating its enrollment numbers with the academy, which opened in 1994 to train local suburban police officers.

COD had been counting academy enrollees toward its own student total because they are concurrently enrolled in several courses at the college while at the academy. However, the curriculum was never approved by a faculty member, students never actually took a class at the college and credit was not given for prior learning, as in the instance of members of the military having prior experience relating to a course.

The practice had been going on since the academy opened, interim college President Joseph Collins said, though the demanded reparations to the state only go back until 2011 when the last review was conducted.

In all, the school will likely have to pay back an estimated $140,000 for the fiscal years 2012 and 2013 and lose out on revenues for the two years after that, Collins said.

Matt Berry, spokesman for the Illinois Community College Board, said the total dollar amount had yet to be determined, but the board would be finalizing its report in November.

Collins said staff didn't think the arrangement was a problem through the years. He said the school's downfall came from not coordinating enough with faculty.

"Only faculty can make the determination of (whether) a certain type of experience is worthy of college credit," he said. "It's my view that what the college needs now is a general healing and repositioning of academics at the forefront of the college."

Board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton said the event was "another sad and sobering development" in the fallout of the previous administration. The college also announced an internal investigation looking into the matter during its Oct. 8 meeting.

"We will not tolerate these games with the taxpayers – those days are over," she said.

The college has 30 days to respond to the report, and Collins said staff had already begun working on addressing concerns.

Berry said the Illinois Community College Board had not received any other complaints and did not have issues with other community colleges with affiliated police or fire academies, though the board would be looking at the matter during its next cycle of reviews starting January 2016.

In light of the situation, he said the board would be holding a workshop in the next several months to "make it abundantly clear these credits are not for college reimbursement and make sure everybody is on the same page."