Three seeking Parkland seats at forum

CHAMPAIGN — The three candidates competing for two seats on the Parkland College Board of Trustees discussed their visions for the future of the college on Wednesday night.

Incumbents James Ayers of Monticello and Tom Bennett of Gibson City and challenger Sam McGrew of Champaign spoke at a forum at the Champaign City Building.

Here is WDWS' audio from the forum.

Ayers, a former mayor of Monticello, said he is deeply moved when he hears about how Parkland has positively affected former students' lives, and he wants another term "to maintain Parkland College as a premier educational institution."

Bennett said he has been amazed at how much the college has expanded during his three terms on the board.

"Education matters," Bennett said. "We provide a quality program at a reasonable cost."

McGrew, a former superintendent for Fisher schools and a former member of the General Assembly, said he would work to help Parkland develop an area vocational center.

"There is a need for the creation of a vocational center with input from local businesses," he said.

Ayers said he would like to see more people benefit from a Parkland education.

"We want to increase the number of students who complete a certificate or get a degree," he said.

Bennett said he wants to continue Parkland's role of preparing students for jobs.

"We need to focus on what's important to our communities: jobs, the economy, agriculture, and quality education," he said.

McGrew said he is concerned about the college's ACT requirements and the number of students required to take remedial classes.

He said his experience working at local schools gives him the insight needed to be a strong advocate for the needs of students.

"We need to have opportunities expanded for students rather than to close the doors to them," he said.

Ayers defended tuition increases at the college.

"Every year we struggle with the tuition increases," he said. "Rather than have one large amount (of an increase), we need to have incremental increases regularly."

Bennett agreed with the idea of a series of small tuition increases.

"We increase the tuition a little bit every year to control the impact on the students," Bennett said.

McGrew expressed concern over the rate of tuition increases when the college has a financial surplus.

"My vision is about how we can better serve the students' needs," he said.

The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, the Champaign County NAACP and The News-Gazette.

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rsp wrote on March 21, 2013 at 4:03 am

They fail to realize they are already putting the price of their school higher than what some people can afford.