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Email from College of DuPage president prompts state to pull $20M in funding for school

Published: Thursday, July 3, 2014 4:49 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:34 a.m. CST

GLEN ELLYN – The College of DuPage will not receive $20 million in state funds for an instructional facility after the governor's office saw an email from the college president detailing plans to obtain the funding.

The decision came after a May 9 email from college President Robert Breuder to the Board of Trustees was posted online by For The Good of Illinois, an Elmhurst-based watchdog organization.

The email discusses how the College of DuPage would use $20 million the state had set aside for the school. The state appropriated $25 million in capital funds through the Illinois Jobs Now! program in 2009, according to a statement from Dave Blanchette, a spokesman for Gov. Pat Quinn's office. Of that, $5 million has been approved for demolition of campus structures. The remaining $20 million was expected to be used for the construction of a new teaching and learning center.

In the email, Breuder expressed frustration over dealing with the governor's office to free up the $20 million and said he wanted the board to convey the need for a teaching and learning facility as a means to obtain the money.

"I have no problem with [board members commenting on the need for a facility]; however, not being able to say how we would use the state's money (perhaps no real need) could lessen our chances to break the money loose at this time (the political moon is rising)," Breuder said in the email. "A building that focuses on teaching and learning is politically attractive; more so than let's say a student center, PE facility, etc."

Breuder also suggested getting the funding from the state and coming up with a plan of how to spend it at a later date.

"There is also the option of telling the Governor we want the money, will bank it until we figure out how to use it, and then building something," Breuder said in the email. "Bottom line: I need some room to breathe on this matter so I can enhance the likelihood we get the $20 million soon."

Breuder said he planned to publicly thank the governor in an attempt to further secure the $20 million for the construction project.

"When I introduce Governor Quinn at commencement, I want to help our cause (getting the $20 million sooner rather than later) by thanking him for his commitment in front of 3,500 people," Breuder said in the email. "There are many voters in our District. Please keep November 4 in mind. The limited state dollars for capital projects will go somewhere in this heightened political season."

Blanchette called Breuder's comments "extremely alarming."

"We have no tolerance for any misrepresentation of how funds will be used," he said in the statement.

He added that no additional funding has been committed or approved by the state, and all future capital dollars for the college have been suspended.

The college's board approved a $30 million appropriation from reserve funds for the construction of the teaching and learning center at its June 26 meeting. At the time, they expected to receive the additional $20 million from the state – although it had not officially been set aside for the college. The board approved the measure by a 6-1 vote, with trustee Kathy Hamilton dissenting.

Hamilton, who works as an accountant, said she felt the college's proposal for how the money would be spent was "very unorganized" and expected the college to have more concrete details on the proposal.

"It's not our money," Hamilton said Monday. "It's the money of the taxpayer, the state property taxpayer and the tuition payer. We can't be sloppy about it."

Hamilton, who said she was speaking as a private resident and not on behalf of the board, said the email was the reason she voted against the proposal, but she still feels the college needs a teaching and learning building.

"This is a legitimate need for the college," she said. "But it was not prepared properly or explained."

The building was expected to be 75,000 to 100,000 square feet, including a large number of 35-seat classrooms, a few 25-seat classrooms, two 50-seat science classrooms, four 25-seat computer classrooms, two 25-seat computer labs, offices of two associate deans and 15 faculty members, an adjunct faculty work center, a student commons area, a multi-purpose room and a food option, according to board documents.

College Vice President of Marketing and Communications Joe Moore said earlier this week that if the college did not receive $20 million in funding from the state, they would revisit the plan and scale back as needed.

Moore did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment Thursday afternoon, after the announcement that the state funds would not be granted.

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