NICC president advocates for levy continuation on Sept. 11 ballot

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Dr. Liang Chee Wee, president of Northeast Iowa Community College, recently spoke to the Guttenberg Rotary Club about the upcoming levy vote and about President Trump's visit to the college. At right is Karilyn McArthur, Guttenberg Rotary president. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

  By Shelia Tomkins

On Sept. 11, voters in the Northeast Iowa Community Collelge district will be asked to decide whether to continue the current tax levy for the school.

Dr. Liang Chee Wee, president of Northeast Iowa Community College, visited the Guttenberg Rotary Club in August to talk about the school's accomplishments and ask  voters to continue their support by "investing in people through us."

"I hope in the past 52 years, NICC has earned your trust and is deserving of your vote," he said.

The $39 million bond levy measure is not a new tax but rather a continuation of a levy approved ten years ago. Dr. Wee said a yes vote will allow the college to accomplish four goals: 1) keep up with technology; 2) improve security, both physical security on the campus as well as cybersecurity; 3) complete infrastructure work, such as insulation, bathrooms, parking lots, etc.; 4) improve programming and services, including ways to create spaces that are flexible for learning. Dr. Wee estimates that the levy currently costs the average homeowner $1.89 a month.

Dr. Wee said the college works with local employers to provide a skilled workforce that helps grow the local economy. More than 25,000 students have graduated from the college since it began, and over 85% of those graduates live in Northeast Iowa. 

Locally, more than $5 million in state training funds were secured for Clayton County companies since 1985, in support of nearly 1,600 new and existing jobs. 

The NICC president touched on the national burden of student debt. He noted that full-time tuition at NICC is 35% less than Iowa public universities and 83% less than Iowa private universities. One year after graduation, 95% of NICC students are employed or continuing their education.

President Trump's visit

Dr. Wee shared details of a visit from President Donald Trump in July. "It's not every day you get a call from the White House," he said with a smile, telling of the seven-days notice given in advance to prepare for the visit. 

The President toured NICC's advanced manufacturing lab and Dr. Wee reports that the President was impressed and "very interested in American-made products." NICC received media attention from around the world during the visit. 

"The reason I mention this is because the 2007 levy helped finance the lab and 10 years later we were able to showcase it," he said. "In 2007 it allowed us to have a state-of-the art facility."

Dr. Wee said that following the visit, President Trump signed a bill that had been languishing since 2006 that renews a federal workforce development program.

"It's always a pleasure and honor to host a sitting president," he said, adding that in 2011 President Obama also visited the school, making it the only community college to have hosted two presidential visits.

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