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Evanston’s Economic Development Committee voted unanimously Wednesday night to recommend City Council approval of a $25,000 forgivable loan to a planned private health careers training school

Organizers of the school, Career Institute LLC, plan to use the funds to help pay for conversion of office space at 990 Grove St. for its use.

The building landlord, Imperial Realty, reportedly has pledged another $30,000 toward building out about 5,000 square feet of first-floor space in the largely vacant building for the school’s use.

New EDC member Jeannemarie Sierant, who works for corporate training firm NIIT Cognitive Arts in Evanston, questionned school co-founder Shalom Klein, about his first-year budget projecting spending just 11 percent of total first year costs of $652,000 on faculty pay.

“That seems a little low,” Sierant said. But Klein said he’d been working with a national consulting firm to develop curricula for the program and to come up with the right staffing levels.

Klein said the school plans to start with a part-time program to train high-school graduates and mid-life career changers for work as pharmacy technicians.

Sierant also noted that such proprietary school programs tend to have very high dropout rates.

But Klein said he plans to focus on building close relationships with employers so “employers will know the student from the beginning” and be prepared to offer them jobs when they finish the program.

“Our selling point as a business will be our success in job placement at the end of the day,” Klein added.

He added that he’s working to get the program accredited, but can’t win accreditation until after the first student has completed the program.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she was concerned about the condition of the building, saying she recalled that there were issues with the property two decades ago when it was used as temporary quarters for the Evanston Public Library while the current library was under construction.

But Paul Zalmezak of the city’s city economic development staff said that before any city funds are spent inspectors from the city building department would go through the property to make sure any issues are addressed.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. Pharmacy Schools

    Did the EDC take into consideration the number of  well established Pharmacy Schools or the Colleges that have a Pharmacy program ?  ( Roosevelt Univ,Coyne College, UIC College of Pharmacy,Chicago College of Pharmacy)   Seems Evanston is just passing out $25,000 without much information.

  2. Compassionate banking

    Once again, Evanston City Government has decided that "compassionate banking" is a proper role for government. If CI LLC had a solid business proposal, decent credit, etc. a bank would loan them the money.

    Using taxpayer funds for such projects comes with risks that government (at any level) is rarely trained to foresee.  Indeed, financial distress is often caused when government "compassionately" lends funds without charging the interest commensurate with the risk.  As a result, when a given percentage of these loans fail, government socializes losses (on taxpayers, see "forgivable loan"), confident that the electorate will remember their compassion more vibrantly than the eventual turmoil that such failures create.

    In just the past five years we have seen the housing market decimated by such foolish interventions (at the Federal level). In addition, current student loans (another industry taken over by government) stand at over a TRILLION dollars with default rates in double-digits.  What do you think will happen when many of these loans fail? Will we still feel compassionate when taxing those who never went to college to help cover others' defaulted college loans?

    In closing, if Evanston City Government decides that it wants to continue acting as a lending instituion, I humbly request that it practice due diligence in vetting the applicants, proper risk assessment, and an interest rate commensurate with said risk.

    Thank you.

  3. So Many Red Flags

    I really hope the City has done its homework here, as there are many unanswered questions that raise concerns. Chief among them: why are we subsidizing an entrepreneur who has no track record providing vocational education, to provide training that is already available at several nearby community colleges? Are we sure that another training program for pharmacy technicians is a good use of taxpayer assistance? Given the fact that pharmacy techs don’t make great money – those working at CVS, for instance, earn only slightly above minimum wage – are we confident that our residents would be making a wise decision to invest in tuition at such a school?

    Today I called the number on the Career Institute LLC website, and was told by Mr. Barry Teichman, who indicated he was the company’s COO, that the school was still in the process of determining how much they would charge – but tuition may be in the neighborhood of $5,000, which, he indicated, would be a discounted rate because the school would not yet be accredited. (And keep in mind that students who enroll in schools that are not accredited cannot apply for student loans, so they will need to put up their own money to attend.) Yet the full cost for the Pharmacy Tech class at Oakton Community College is $1,100 for in-district residents, which includes Evanstonians. (And those classes at Oakton are provided by an enterprise called MK Education, the same outfit Mr. Teichman indicated Career Institute LLC plans to partner with.) For $25,000 we could cover those costs for 20 Evanston residents, and probably have enough left over to run a shuttle service back and forth to Oakton to take advantage of the program they’ve already got up and running.

    Here is the Federal Trade Commission’s guide to evaluating vocational schools. I hope city officials have read this and asked the people behind Career Institute LLC all the questions listed here. Given that taxpayer money is being used to underwrite this business, Evanston’s citizens should ask them, too.

  4. A minor quibble

    The article stated that Ald. Rainey said that the 900 building was used for a temporary library while the current building was under construction. Not so. It may have been considered, but the temporary library was located at the Fountain Square building.

    For those of us with long memories, the temporary library when the Carnegie library was torn down for the one that was replaced by the current building was at the corner of Clark and Benson.

    I hesitate to bring this up, considering the more important issues as described in the comments above. Which, by the way, I agree with.

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