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The future of our region depends on our ability to attract and train a highly skilled workforce and sustain progressive, family-friendly communities. Our success depends on our young adults seeking out education and training to fill the labor shortages we are experiencing in critical areas such as healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and information technology, to name a few.
However, only half of the high school students in our area are going to college or attending a post-secondary institution, according to the average of data collected during the past four years from the National Student Clearinghouse.
As we moved through the pandemic, society was accepting of the fact that young adults needed a gap year and predicted they would enroll in college shortly thereafter. However, this is not coming to fruition and there is growing concern about what this means for our country’s future.
National studies predict slower economic growth, labor shortages, poor health and a lower tax base as potential outcomes of a society with lower educational attainment. Locally, we could feel the impact directly as those with only a high school diploma pay 31% less in local, state and federal taxes than people with associate degrees, according to a recent study by College Board.
Our interest in this data goes beyond a desire to boost Lake Land’s enrollment. Our success is directly linked to the success of the communities we serve. We are committed to providing options for residents to obtain an education and training beyond high school so they can earn life-sustaining wages, support their families and have the cushion of benefits and paid time off. We are committed to creating a highly-skilled workforce to fuel economic growth.
As part of our Strategic Plan, we set out to talk directly to the high school students in our district to identify potential roadblocks or barriers to attending college. This past fall, faculty and staff facilitated 24 focus groups within four in-district high schools and four Pathways programs. They talked with 223 high school students who shared their thoughts and experiences related to planning for the future. Of that total, 143 were planning to attend college, while 80 were not.
The data revealed several themes that mirrored national studies. Students are concerned about cost and the value of college. One student said, “Do I even want to go to college and then waste the time and money? When you do it, and then get a degree for it, and then not ever really need it.”
They are anxious about the future and have a fear of the unknown. Some in the group who were not planning to attend college reported having negative feelings related to school in general.
In both groups, students did not realize that Lake Land College offers trade programs such as welding, automotive and construction. They identified additional barriers to higher education such as reliable transportation, safety, gas, housing and feeling unprepared for college.
While they reported parents as being the most influential persons in their decision to attend college, they were definitely impacted by other family members, siblings, educators, friends, social media influencers, teachers, counselors and coaches.
The study provides valuable information for Lake Land College and our communities to create a future in which our young people see the value in education and training after high school. Kudos to creative programs such as Leaders Innovating for Tomorrow (LIFT) in Mattoon and the Effingham Regional Career Academy (ERCA) in Effingham, which focus on pathways for high school students to explore careers and develop foundational skills in critical workforce sectors for our region. These types of collaborative partnerships between public and private entities are critical to the future success of our communities. How can we work together to continue breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for the youth in our area to thrive?
Dr. Josh Bullock
Lake Land College President
For all you superhero fans out there, allow me to present to you the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Universe. This universe fuels the forward movement of our communities, yet within we find a two-dimensional multiverse.
In the dimension of Industry and Education, career and technical jobs are often high tech, require critical thinking, utilize problem-solving skills and are lucrative, as well as satisfying.
In the dimension of Public Perception Misconception, career and technical careers are often perceived as dirty, mundane, low-paying, mindless and not desirable.
As the college and nation prepare to celebrate Career and Technical Education Month in February, I talked with my Workforce Development Center teammates and several of these conflicting phenomena emerged.
In the Public Perception Misconception Dimension, the most common view is that you can’t make a good living working in a career and technical occupation. The data counters this notion, with many of our students graduating with starting salaries of nearly $50,000. Plus, CTE students usually graduate with little to no student loan debt, ensuring their wages go much further than someone with a mountain of debt.
Another common myth is that working conditions in career and technical jobs are dirty or too physically demanding. The Public Perception Misconception Dimension often does not realize that career and technical jobs involve a wide variety of professions such as accounting, business marketing, nursing and cybersecurity. They also do not realize that today’s factories are usually bright, clean and supported by numerous automations.
As robotics and AI integration continue to grow, the demand for highly skilled technicians to fix machinery or troubleshoot code grows right with it. Companies depend on employees who have critical thinking skills to make sure production lines are operating efficiently and meeting standards. Manufacturers expect their employees to be able to pivot and make critical decisions on the fly to maintain production levels.
The ironic part of our story is that the Public Perception Misconception dimension depends on, and highly values, the Industry and Education dimension in daily life. CTE graduates are the very people we depend on when our furnace goes out, when we have a medical procedure, when we need a haircut or when the internet is down. The CTE Universe creates the goods we consume and provides the services we need for a successful society.
Why then do we see parents and influencers steer young people away from CTE programs? Perhaps they do not realize the potential return on investment a CTE graduate can gain? In just one example, students who earned a CTE credential in Ohio saw a 220% ROI on average five years after completion, according to a recent CTE industry study.
Lake Land College exists within the Industry and Education dimension and is proud to be working with so many industry partners to grow highly skilled employees from within the community. We have 12 registered apprenticeships this spring and this past year the Center for Business and Industry served 1,840 students and 23 companies with customized training programs.
Through the Local Workforce Investment Area (LWIA) 23 and the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA), more than $1.5 million was invested in grant funds to directly support our communities through tuition and support services to students and on-the-job training for eligible individuals. LWIA 23 also funded four Incumbent Worker Training (IWT) projects, which allowed 78 local employees to gain additional skills resulting in a promotion and/or raise. The four IWT project contracts were with local employers: Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System, AgriFab, EvapCo and EJ Water.
Over the past several years the college invested nearly $2.4 million in innovative technical equipment that provides students with the opportunity to safely gain experience and fine-tune skills before working with real equipment. Lake Land students can now explore a virtual cadaver, drive on the CDL simulator, provide patient care in a life-sized ambulance simulator and practice techniques with virtual welding equipment, to name a few.
As we seek to raise awareness of the value and benefit of the CTE universe, do we need a new superhero who can move between dimensions? Or better yet one who can unify the two dimensions and create united support for the potential and future of career and technical education. Knowledge empowers students to choose a CTE pathway that leads to a satisfying career and supports themselves and their families into the future. I look forward to discussing your ideas on how to bring together the two dimensions to dispel the myths and raise awareness of the many benefits of Career and Technical Education.
This past weekend, Lake Land College was fortunate to host One Stop Community Christmas on campus for the first time since 2019. It was energizing to see so many organizations come together to provide a positive holiday experience for more than 1,000 families in need from Clark, Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Moultrie and Shelby counties.
As I helped, the magnitude of the event both humbled me and gave me reason to pause. When you stop to think about the depth of need in our area, it is rather alarming. Within the Lake Land College district, we have seven of our fifteen counties that have a greater percentage of people living below the poverty level than the state average.
In addition, 35% of the household districts live paycheck to paycheck, making it difficult to get ahead, according to the most recent Data for Decision Makers. Even those who are determined to improve with a new job or an education can easily be derailed by a car breaking down or a sudden illness.
When an employee calls in sick or has to quit due to an unforeseen challenge, it can have a significant impact on productivity in the workplace. When a student has to put their courses aside to manage a challenging situation, they often do not finish their degree or certificate.
At Lake Land, two in five students are low income, or eligible for a PELL grant, according to federal financial aid data. Seventy percent of those students work while attending Lake Land. They are ambitious and determined, but when life throws them a curve ball, they do not always have the resources to sustain their current path in college or work.
During the past few years the college has been working toward the concept of providing holistic wrap-around services to help underrepresented and low income students succeed.
Current initiatives include loaning laptops to students; providing an emergency relief fund scholarship; supplementing the Laker Food Pantry with an essential supplies inventory; and adopting free mental health resources. Low income and first-generation students are eligible to join TRIO Student Support Services, a federal grant that provides personalized guidance to help students in need succeed. Most recently, the college launched the Community and College Services Awareness Task Force to raise awareness of resources within the college and external agency partners that can help students succeed.
With the new Strategic Plan, the college will build upon current strategic initiatives and continue monitoring success metrics for low income and first generation students to better identify needs and effectiveness of our wrap-around services.
One Stop Community Christmas is an excellent example of how a community can come together to truly make a difference in a family’s life. What can we adopt from this model to continue outreach beyond the holiday season and help our neighbors rise above the poverty level? How can we collaborate to support them as they seek to improve their own lives through work and education? I look forward to continuing this conversation throughout the new year.
Adult student enrollment has flattened over the past few years at Lake Land College and throughout the nation. With future projections showing only 1% growth nationally, it’s time for higher education to examine its future.
Traditionally, when area adult students decided it was time to finish the college education they started years ago or wanted a fulfilling new job, they turned to a traditional college such as Lake Land or Eastern Illinois University.
Today, in addition to a traditional college, adults have a multitude of options to consider in completing their goals. To meet the needs of adult learners, educational options must be flexible, by creating programs with immediate access, credentials for specific skillsets and accelerated times to completion. Flexibility is essential for an adult to fit a college education into their busy life.
This mindset is at the center of Lake Land’s 2023-2027 Strategic Plan. When completed, Lake Land College will have expanded our offerings for relevant, just-in-time training and educational programs that compete with the current marketplace of on-demand online courses and programs, open entry, work-at-your-own pace and accelerated timelines.
While we have our work cut out for us, our faculty and staff are already addressing many of these issues through several exciting initiatives.
Lake Land is a leader in assisting all students who need to take developmental education programs. With new math and English remediation programs, students are now taking developmental courses as co-requisites, thus saving on tuition and even more importantly, succeeding in these challenging subjects.
One of our newer programs, Court Reporting and Captioning is the first to offer students the innovative opportunity to work at their own pace for a skills-based component of the program. Students can advance through the speed building courses at their own pace which provides flexibility and accommodations to all students.
Another way in which faculty are providing flexibility to students is through the new HyFlex, HD video conferencing classrooms that allow students to attend some class either in person or remotely, depending on their daily schedules.
We’ve also partnered with industry to develop leading-edge Registered Apprenticeships in high demand fields, such as CDL, Industrial Maintenance Repair, Automotive Technician, Industrial Maintenance Mechanic and Fleet Driver. These earn-as-you-learn programs provide adults with a pathway to a life-sustaining career while creating a pipeline of talent for area business. If you, or your organization, would like to learn more about this opportunity, please reach out to Director for Center for Business & Industry Bonnie Moore.
On an individual basis, our Community Outreach Coordinator Brittany Aitken is visiting area businesses and talking one-on-one with employees who are seeking to learn a new skill or ease back into college. Last year, she helped 45 individuals get started with a 3-credit-hour tuition waiver. This year, there will be 100 tuition waivers available. If you, or your organization, would like to learn more about this opportunity, please reach out to Brittany.
It is clear, we have our work cut out for us, as we look ahead to meet the needs of the area’s adult learners with innovative options that allow them to define their own success. I look forward to discussing how Lake Land plans to navigate the changing landscape of higher education to successfully serve the adult students and businesses in our communities.
Lake Land College kicked off Manufacturing Month by celebrating a new partnership with Kubota Tractor Corporation providing new career opportunities for students while creating a pipeline of talented technicians for area dealers.
Beginning this fall, students enrolled in Lake Land’s Diesel and Ag Power program will have the opportunity to earn eight industry-recognized, portable, stackable certifications through the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3). Graduates who earn these NC3 credentials will be qualified for careers as Kubota Technicians at any of Kubota’s 1,100 dealerships around the country.
This partnership is directly aligned with the college’s 2023-2027 Strategic Plan objective to expand corporate partnerships, work-based learning opportunities and apprenticeship programs. In addition, the Kubota program aligns directly with Lake Land’s commitment to create stackable, transferable credential programs that provide students with the skills needed to succeed in business, while at the same time creating a pool of talented individuals for area businesses.
Training students and incumbent employees for the manufacturing jobs of the future is essential to our region, state and country. The Lake Land College district is deeply rooted in the manufacturing sector with 20,000 jobs – nearly double that of the national average according to the Data for Decision Makers report. Beyond our district, there are 800,000 open manufacturing jobs nationwide, according to the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA). The IMA also warns that we are at a critical time in history, as an estimated 300,000 employees are beginning to retire.
In gathering data for the new Strategic Plan, the college heard from more than 1,200 stakeholders that the top workforce challenges in our area are recruiting skilled workers, retaining workers and recruiting entry-level workers.
To address these challenges, the Lake Land College Center for Business and Industry is working with area businesses to expand apprenticeship programs that provide customized training to students while they learn on the job, as well as address the workforce shortages and growing skills gaps.
Lake Land College is grateful to partner with Effingham and Mattoon in a shared commitment to give high school students learning experiences with manufacturing careers through Manufacturing Days, the Effingham Regional Career Academy (ERCA), Leaders Innovating for Tomorrow (LIFT) in Mattoon, and new dual credit programs in automotive and welding.
Manufacturing month is an excellent time for business, community and educational leaders to join forces and develop creative ways to educate parents and students on the earnings potential of the technologically advanced manufacturing fields. I look forward to brainstorming strategies and creating new manufacturing partnerships that will help your business meet the workforce demands of the future.
In September, we celebrate the positive impact Adult Education and literacy programs have in providing educational opportunities and economic growth in our communities.
Lake Land College’s Adult Education programs empower adult learners with necessary skills, tools and resources to progress in their lives and careers. This is exemplified in the story of Demarko Hull who earned a basic welding certification through the Lake Land College Adult Education program in 2019.
While attending classes, Demarko was living in a one-bedroom apartment with his son while working part time and driving a long commute every day. Today, he is the proud owner of his own welding business called Hull Boys Welding and Fabrication LLC.
In addition to vocational training, Adult Education offers GED preparation, basic reading instruction and English as a second language at multiple sites throughout the college district. As a community service, free food service sanitation certification courses are offered in rotating locations throughout the year.
In the 2021-2022 academic year, the Lake Land Adult Education program served 243 students. In May 2022, 38 of the students celebrated with their families and college community at the GED Graduation Ceremony.
Several of these graduates are continuing on in their educational journey to earn a college certificate or degree, opting for careers in healthcare, cosmetology, automotive, CDL and welding – all career paths that move students from low-income jobs and limited opportunities to middle-class wages and increased family sustainability.
Lake Land College also partners with programs such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and C.E.F.S. to provide further educational and career opportunities for youth and adults.
Data from the Illinois Community College Board underscores the importance of working together to guide young adults toward the goal of obtaining a GED. The ICCB reports that those who do not have a high school diploma face more challenges with entering and remaining in the workforce. These individuals are twice as likely as their college-educated peers to be out of work, and more than 9 of every 10 new jobs go to college-educated candidates.
Adult Education, WIOA and C.E.F.S. programs provide a valuable service by empowering individuals and expanding the pool of qualified employees. When the educational attainment of a community grows, economic growth follows according to a recent study.
Maintaining a skilled workforce and recruiting entry-level employees was one of the top challenges brought forth by the community in last year’s Strategic Plan Survey Report. As a result of this feedback, two of the top priorities of the college’s FY 2023-2027 Strategic Plan are to close equity gaps and accessibility to an education, and to build relationships with education, community and workforce partners to support job readiness.
As we reflect on the positive impact adult education services have on our community, I look forward to discussing innovative ideas to encourage community members to take advantage of these services and develop partnerships to cultivate a qualified workforce for our region.
As we celebrate National Community College Month this April, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the impact a community college can have on someone’s life through the eyes of one of our students, Logan Puckett of Pana.
The community colleges of Illinois serve the most diverse group of students and communities of any higher education option in Illinois. Community colleges feel like home, while offering a comprehensive higher education experience that expands students’ knowledge level and world view. At Lake Land College, we celebrate our differences and strive for an inclusive culture where everyone belongs.
In a recent essay, Logan Puckett said, “The accessibility of a community college has changed my life in how I see things as a student and as a person. It has allowed me the opportunity to be involved in many student organizations in the college. It is easier to be involved in a college like Lake Land College because it is a smaller college. For example, one feels more involved in the classroom, with the opportunity to work with other classmates, as well as ask professors for assistance for a specific problem. The college has also allowed me to be able to commute from home, which lets me be with my family.”
Community colleges’ degree and stackable certificate programs help all students forge a clear, personalized path toward their goal, giving them a sense of accomplishment and greater control over their future. Illinois is first in the nation in terms of its community college students earning bachelor’s degrees, and we are the largest provider of public workforce training in the state. We are outcomes-driven at Lake Land and are constantly assessing our progress in helping students reach their goals.
Community colleges make the proven and substantial benefits of higher education available to the greatest number of people by providing whatever it takes to help them succeed: affordable tuition and financial aid counseling, faculty mentoring, comprehensive student success services, and class schedules that allow students to fulfill their family and job responsibilities. We open up access to more rewarding futures.
“Since I was unable to afford to go to a large university, Lake Land College has helped me a lot financially and has made it possible to get a degree. This has meant a lot to me so much that it has and will continue to change my life,” Puckett, who is majoring in Business, wrote.
Even in the most challenging times, community colleges deliver education that is relevant and free of red tape. We meet students where they are, and make the most of their prior learning experiences. We can ramp up and re-engineer workforce development programs quickly, helping businesses and government stay ahead. We’re flexible, innovative and agile as is demonstrated by Lake Land College’s fast-track program development with area businesses such as North American Lighting.
Community colleges return our communities’ investment by boosting local education levels and social mobility, developing new generations of local leaders, and being a trusted, proactive partner for local economic and civic ambitions. We build individual and collective resilience. We’re dedicated and accountable to our communities. As demonstrated in our recent efforts to seek significant community input for our next strategic planning cycle, we not only value your input, we use it to grow and improve and in doing so, positively impact our communities and individuals.
“My community college (Lake Land College) can change the direction of anyone’s life. A college education is the main driver to lead many out of poverty, and the way to get out of poverty, or to avoid it is by studying at a community college. My community college has programs for both blue and white-collar workers, and at the same time, the programs are inexpensive,” Logan wrote.
I applaud Logan for sharing his personal story and for eloquently articulating the positive impact community colleges have on people’s lives. We are proud to serve Logan and the thousands of students at Lake Land College. We are equally proud to serve your community as one of the 48 community colleges of Illinois. During this April celebration, I invite you to consider how we can work together to expand opportunities for more students like Logan to grow from the experience of a community college education.
Lake Land College faculty selected Logan’s essay for the annual Paul Simon Student Essay contest sponsored by the Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA).
To read the full essay, please visit the Lake Land College Laker Life Blog.
Last fall, through a strategic planning survey and focus groups we asked how Lake Land College could best serve our students and district residents, businesses and industry as we develop a blueprint for the future. We appreciate those of you who responded and assisted us in gathering significant feedback.
In all, we heard from 1,215 community members, alumni, business and industry partners, K-12 educators, students and employees. To review the feedback, visit the Strategic Plan Survey Report and the Focus Group Summary Analysis.
From this valuable feedback we have developed the FY 2023-2027 Strategic Plan which focuses on enhancing student success in three key areas: excellent teaching and learning, effective processes for student support, and expanding partnerships. The plan also focuses on institutional and employee excellence. Our collective commitment to this strategic plan will position Lake Land College to excel in meeting the evolving needs of our district and the holistic needs of the individuals we serve.
The goals and objectives of the FY 2023-2027 Strategic Plan challenge employees to reimagine how they deliver courses and provide services. They also include a strong commitment to offer programs and soft skills training that prepare students for successful employment in the 21st century workforce. All constituencies supported the need to advance relationships among education, community and workforce partners to support job readiness, local industry, workforce development and work-based learning opportunities for our students.
We have already started taking actions based on your feedback. This spring, the college will meet with business leaders in the automotive industry to discuss a proposed redesign and transformation of the Lake Land College Automotive program, which we hope will expand opportunities for students and assist employers in addressing critical labor shortages.
Faculty and staff are using our new industry-leading HyFlex technology to simultaneously deliver in-person and virtual classes. Those attending remotely interact with those in the physical location through the use of high-tech cameras and microphones that follow the voice of the person speaking. We are also using this technology to expand dual credit access to students in various high schools throughout the district as this technology enables a Lake Land College instructor to teach the dual credit courses to students at their respective schools.
Just this month, we took a historic step in support of students and the community by reducing tuition by almost 10% for next year and making college more affordable than ever during a time of rapidly expanding inflation. Student feedback in the strategic planning data collection process indicated many struggle with the cost of pursuing higher education. Our reduced tuition rate of $100 per credit hour symbolizes how we are 100% committed to our students.
These are just a few examples of how your feedback is guiding Lake Land College into the future. As we further develop the strategic plan, I look forward to discussing how you can be a part of some of the new initiatives to ensure our programs and curriculum meet your workforce needs and create new partnerships for work-based learning opportunities or other innovative ways to support the success of our students.
Lake Land College President
As the nation celebrates Career and Technical Month this February, I would like to share how Lake Land College is on the leading edge of developing apprenticeships that can often be a golden solution for creating a talented pipeline of skilled employees and enabling area businesses to thrive.
Traditionally, apprenticeships are associated with careers in trade unions. However, the reality is that apprenticeships are expanding to include multiple career paths. In response to the workforce shortages and growing skills gap, state and national leaders are investing in organizations that develop apprenticeships.
Just last month, the governor and Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced a nearly $10 million investment in pre-apprenticeship programs through the Illinois Works program. Last year Lake Land College, Rend Lake and Illinois Eastern Community College submitted a collaborative proposal to grow partnerships. Their success in establishing 41 registered apprenticeship programs was among the many reasons DCEO funded the grant proposal.
In an apprenticeship partnership, employers drive the development of customized curriculum, in partnership with the local community college, to support the skills needs of the organization. Employers then select new employees to enter an apprenticeship training program or invest in current employees to upskill their knowledge. With this commitment, businesses are reducing turnover, creating a talent pipeline, increasing productivity and diversifying their workforce. In addition, by establishing an apprenticeship training program, they are setting standards for knowledge and skills and ensuring a continuity of learning among generations.
Employees/students who participate in an apprenticeship earn a wage while training or attending class, see their wages increase as their skills progress, receive on-the-job training and experience career advancement. They may also benefit from tuition reimbursement. Students who complete an apprenticeship earn college credit and the valuable distinction of journeyman−a nationally recognized credential and testimony to their skill level.
Through grants and alternate financial sources, Lake Land College can assist businesses in funding apprenticeships for college students and pre-apprenticeships for high school students. In developing these programs, we work with companies to establish a beneficial schedule and specifically outline every detail of the training objectives. Lake Land College is engaged in two apprenticeships in Industrial Maintenance and Repair and is in the process of developing additional programs in Automotive Technician and Commercial Driver’s License.
We appreciate those of you who assisted the college in gathering significant data for our next Strategic Planning cycle. In analyzing the results of the survey and focus group feedback, it is clear that there is strong support among both business leaders and the college community for creating apprenticeships, internships and on-the-job training. I look forward to discussing how Lake Land College can help you in creating a skilled workforce through an apprenticeship, internship or innovative work-based learning partnership that will help your business meet the workforce demands of the future.
In Lake Land College’s recently published Trend Analysis report, research indicates financial insecurity is a major concern for many community college students and can often impede their ability to complete their higher education goals.
A national survey conducted early in the pandemic showed four in 10 community college students were affected by food insecurity and 11% experienced homelessness. Local data collected prior to the pandemic supports this national trend. A fall 2019 survey conducted with 557 students by Lake Land’s PTK Chapter revealed that 74% of respondents reported experiencing financial struggles in their day-to-day life to pay for basic needs such as gas, food and bills, and 73% of respondents reported having to work at least 11 or more hours per week. Nearly 50% of all community college students participating in a national survey reported that a lack of finances was an issue that could cause them to withdraw from college.
It could be easy for us as a community to look the other way; however, the impact of this data extends beyond the Lake Land College campus.
When our Lake Land College students who are living paycheck to paycheck have a financial incident–a trip to the emergency room, a car breaking down, an unexpected bill–it can be a breaking point in their educational journey.
At Lake Land College, we have several mechanisms in place to assist students, such as the Laker Food Pantry and an Emergency Assistance Fund established by a generous Lake Land College Foundation donor. However, that only helps the students who ask. How many of our students do not turn to us for help?
Why is this an important topic for us to consider as a community? The educational attainment of a community can be linked to economic success. In a recently published study, the authors found a significant positive correlation between educational attainment and strong economic growth, indicating just a 1% increase in the number of people earning a bachelor’s degree can have a positive impact on the economy.
The 2021 Illinois Community College Board Economic Impact study supports this report, showing students who graduate with a Lake Land College associate degree will have far more earning power over their career, on average earning $550,000 more than someone not attending college.
While the Lake Land College district population is on par for residents having earned an associate degree, we lag far behind in the number of residents with a bachelor’s degree. Only about 17.8% of the residents in the Lake Land College district have earned a bachelor’s degree, nearly 50% less than the statistic for all Illinois residents at 34.7%, according to the Trend Analysis report.
Lake Land College is a great value for those seeking to transfer to earn a bachelor’s degree or those seeking a credential, certificate or associate’s degree for an immediate career. And, we are fortunate in the Lake Land College district to have many businesses, educational institutions and organizations working together to develop innovative opportunities to grow our region’s economy. The high-level view is optimistic, however I question what that view may look like for someone with financial insecurity seeking to advance through higher education? Does that person have the financial resources, adequate support and personal flexibility to advance theirself through education? I look forward to continuing this important work together to help more students reach their goals, move the needle on our district’s educational attainment and boost our overall regional economy.
Earlier this month hundreds of area high school students witnessed the impressive automation and robotics of area businesses as part of the national Manufacturing Month celebration. These Manufacturing Day events are critical to helping young people realize that careers in manufacturing, especially those of the future, involve a high level of skill and knowledge.
As Lake Land College prepares for its next strategic plan, it is taking into consideration the significant impact automation technologies and intelligent machines will have on the U.S. labor market. According to The Future of Work in America: People and Places, Today and Tomorrow, in the next decade, these changes will put many jobs that are automatable at risk. While less than 5% of jobs can be automated entirely, more than half of jobs can have up to 30% of their activities automated using current technologies. As jobs move forward, how work is organized and the mix of jobs will change based on available technology. As a result, businesses, educators and workers will have to adjust to jobs that require higher cognitive and technological skills.
These changes will cause gaps in employment especially in rural America, where The Future of Work in America authors speculate more than 25% of workers could be displaced. Areas less affected by automation are more likely to have diversified economies and workers with higher educational attainment. The occupational categories impacted the most by automation include some of the largest occupational categories, such as office support, food service, production work, customer service and retail sales. Many businesses important to our local economy fall into these categories.
While some occupations will lose jobs, other occupations such as healthcare, STEM occupations, creative fields and business services, will see strong growth. Certain occupations may see both displacement and growth, as the automation of some tasks will result in the shifting of more non-automatable tasks to current workers.
According to the Higher Education in the Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the skills needed for an automation economy are different than the skills accentuated by higher education in the past. The prioritized top ten skills needed by employers are: complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgment and decision making, service orientation, negotiation and cognitive flexibility.
Ultimately, the increasing reliance on automation in occupations leads to higher salaries, however, these higher salaries can only be acquired with advanced education and skills. This means that workers with only high school diplomas are the most likely to be displaced by automation and technology. In the Lake Land College district, only about 17.8% of residents have a bachelor’s degree, which is almost half of the statistic for all Illinois residents at 34.7%. However, on average, the number of people with an associate degree in Lake Land’s district are at the same level or higher than Illinois or the nation at 8.5%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Automation, the skills needed to succeed in the workplace and educational attainment are just a few of the topics College staff researched for the recently published Trend Analysis in preparation for developing the 2023-2026 Lake Land College Strategic Plan. Please be a part of our strategic planning process by taking a five-minute survey to help us in the process of identifying the goals and objectives for our next strategic plan.
I invite you to review the information presented in the Trend Analysis or quick-facts Executive Summary to consider how we can work together to serve the next generation of students, residents and businesses in our communities.
How can Lake Land College serve the next generation of students? That question is driving the college’s year-long initiative to create a new strategic plan.
To kick off the process, the Strategic Planning committee published a comprehensive Trend Analysis Report that provides key takeaways from research on state, national and global trends affecting higher education as well as demographic data for the college district and the diverse communities we serve. The publication includes a brief Executive Summary that provides highlights of the in-depth study of our 15-county service area.
Using this research and input from community members, business leaders, alumni, employees, current students and future Lakers throughout our service area, we intend to develop an innovative and adaptive strategic plan that addresses these trends and positions Lake Land to meet the student and workforce needs in a post-pandemic environment.
We invite you to be a part of our strategic planning process by completing a five minute survey that will assist us in identifying the goals and objectives for the next strategic plan. Please feel free to share this survey with your colleagues, friends and family.
Another way in which you can participate is by joining us for a focus group that centers on one of the key topics in the Trend Analysis Report. Please watch your email for an invitation this fall.
The topics addressed in the Trend Analysis Report will guide the strategic planning committee’s work in fiscal year 2022 and will set the stage for the next four-year planning cycle, fiscal years 2023-2026. The college’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
We are excited to launch this inclusive, comprehensive initiative that concentrates on the future of Lake Land College. I thank you in advance for your participation and your shared commitment to creating opportunities for the residents and communities we collectively serve.
In just a few days we will celebrate Commencement at Lake Land College. During this event, we take time to thank our graduates for choosing Lake Land and remind them of the tremendous gift they have given themselves by investing in a college education.
While we applaud our graduates, we continue to see contrasting perceptions of the value of a college education, as illustrated in a recently published report from the Strada Center for Education Consumer Insights that sought feedback from students attending two-year and four-year institutions throughout the country.
The good news is that 70% of the survey respondents who hold an associate degree believed their education was worth the investment. When compared to students seeking a bachelor’s degree, community college students were almost 25% more likely to feel their education would be worth the cost. The results are a strong testament to the community college experience.
The organization also surveyed people who did not yet have a degree. Of those respondents, only 35% felt an associate degree was worth the investment. Additionally, more than half of that same group did not see a link between additional education and employment opportunities during economic uncertainty.
The results of this study mirror enrollment trends we have seen over the years with our high school graduating classes. Using data from the National Student Clearinghouse, we see that approximately 33% of the district graduates do not pursue any type of advanced training or education immediately following high school. As a college, we are focusing on this segment to better understand the barriers and perceptions preventing further education, while developing opportunities and partnerships to reach this audience.
Some examples of these initiatives include new dual credit opportunities in automotive, the Effingham Regional Career Academy, Cross County Elevate, Mattoon Regional Innovation Center and the annual Manufacturing Day events throughout our region.
In addition to exposing our high school students to the value of a college education, we are committed to demonstrating the relevance of higher education to the adults in our communities. According to the Data for Decision Makers, nearly half of the population in the college district does not have a college credential or degree.
The college’s new Workforce Development Center on campus presents an excellent opportunity for partnerships among industry, faculty and the Center for Business and Industry for customized training programs that lead to college credentials and a highly skilled workforce.
The simple solution would be to find contentment in the positive aspects of this survey. However, at Lake Land we see the concerning outcomes of the survey as opportunities. We are dedicated to helping people understand there is more to college than textbooks and classes, and that an associate degree or long-term certificate can add $570,000 in additional earnings over their lifetime, according to data published by the Illinois Community College Trustees Association. I welcome your thoughts and ideas on how we can work together as a community to create partnerships that promote the value of an education to all of our district residents.
April is Community College Month and a time for community colleges across the nation to showcase the value they bring to their respective communities. At Lake Land College, the past year certainly tested our core value of innovation as we navigated the pandemic and learned new modes of providing high quality education and services to our students. Our faculty and staff rose to the challenge and continued innovating to meet area workforce demands and create new opportunities for community residents.
One way in which the college ensures curriculum is relevant is by hosting a DACUM, Developing a Curriculum. In these workshops, industry professionals share their expertise with the goal of identifying the skills needed to be successful in a given career path. As a result of a DACUM held in March 2019, the Emergency Medical Services faculty and staff have created a new Fire Science major. The program provides an educational pathway for current firefighting professionals to advance in their careers. As the only program south of Chicago, this new opportunity has the potential to positively impact first-responders in our communities.
Medical Assistant faculty are also paving the way for career advancement as the only program in the region to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Faculty have also created a Medical Assistant Associate Degree Completion program that allows current certified medical assistants to receive credit for professional certification and accelerate the time to complete a degree.
Earlier this year, Abbott Ambulance Services in Effingham approached the college about hosting an on-site training program to fill a need for emergency medical technicians. EMS faculty and staff worked with Sarah Bush Lincoln instructors and Abbott Ambulance Services to host an 8-week fast track EMT training curriculum beginning this month. Abbott is paying 10 students a wage, covering their tuition and fees, and guaranteeing them a position upon successful program completion and licensure exam.
This fall, the Business Division will welcome the first class of students to the new Court Reporting Technology program. Business faculty have worked closely with area court reporting professionals to create this major in response to a regional and national shortage of court reporters. According to the Occupational Profile on the Illinois virtual labor market information website, there will be a projected 80 job openings in this field each year through 2026.
A few years ago, Heartland Dental invested in future dental hygienists by donating state-of-the-art equipment for the Heartland Dental Dental Hygiene Lab. This year, the company selected Lake Land College to pilot a new educational partnership that provides support and opportunities, both financially and academically, to students preparing to enter the field of dentistry.
Dental Hygiene faculty have also expanded opportunities for students by working with Eastern Illinois University to establish a transfer pathway. All Dental Hygiene Alumni now have an opportunity to transfer to Eastern Illinois to pursue a bachelor’s degree in public health.
Several programs recently updated curriculum to arm students with the skills needed for success today and into the future. The Humanities and Communications faculty enhanced speech and radio-TV courses by creating a new Broadcast Communications department that ensures students are trained in a multitude of skill sets from creating videos, to presenting online to writing advertisements. The Information Technology and IT-Graphic Design programs recently aligned course offerings and programs to maximize opportunities for students interested in design, programming, web creation and gaming careers. The newly revised Diesel & Ag Power provides students hands-on experience working on diesel machinery and a variety of brands, preparing them for future careers in the field or on their family farm.
In addition to these program enhancements, the college continues to work with the Effingham Regional Career Academy to secure funding for a new building and to develop training programs for both high school students and adults or incumbent workers that meet the needs of our area business partners. To date, 14 schools have signed intergovernmental agreements to participate in this initiative.
We look forward to welcoming you to campus to tour the new Workforce Development Center and the opportunities it presents for customized training. The center houses Adult Education, Center for Business and Industry, the Manufacturing Skills Lab, WIOA and Department of Corrections.
As we enter the spring season and look forward to warmer weather, please let us know how we can assist you in fulfilling unmet workforce or training needs. As you can see, we are committed to partnering with area businesses and creating new opportunities for district residents to gain the education they need to advance in their careers.
As we begin a new year and reflect on the past, we are pleased to share with you the 2020 Accomplishments of the Lake Land College Community, as well as the Someone Who Made a Difference Fall 2020 presentation!
In recent years, colleges across America have developed comprehensive services for students that go beyond academic support. In addition to tutoring, study skills courses and individualized office hours to ensure classroom success, colleges are creating resources and services that support students’ well-being and mental health.
Educational leaders realize students have trouble reaching their full potential when they are under pressure to succeed academically, have trouble selecting a major or career, are not sure how to afford college and face constant feedback from social media use.
A 2019 article published on the National Academic Advising Association Academic Advising Today cited several studies that found a direct correlation between mental health and academic performance. Independent research conducted by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) revealed that “one in four [college] students has a diagnosable [mental] illness” and “50% become so anxious that they struggle in school.”
Our Lake Land College students are having similar experiences. In 2019, Phi Theta Kappa, the college’s honor society, conducted a survey asking students for feedback on their mental health. The results mirrored the ACCT study. Of the 557 participants, 54% said their mental health has affected their academic potential. In addition, more than one-third said they felt sadness for longer than a month.
For many college students, the pandemic has created additional stress and negatively impacted their mental health. Active Minds, a student advocacy group, surveyed 2,051 students regarding the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health in September 2020. The survey revealed that “almost 75% of respondents reported their mental health has worsened since the beginning of the pandemic, with nearly 90% reporting they have experienced stress or anxiety.”
Last year, the state of Illinois recognized the mental health crisis colleges were facing and passed the Illinois Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act to increase mental health services and awareness among students. While statewide implementation and funding has been delayed due to the pandemic, Lake Land College believes in the intention of the Act and is in the process of implementing a comprehensive plan for our students.
Earlier this year, the college created two stipend faculty positions for academic counselors to implement our plan. One position focuses on student outreach and awareness while the second position acts as a compliance coordinator to identify, develop, and monitor internal and external formal mental health supports for students.
To date, the work of this team has resulted in the establishment of a new student club, Active Minds, a peer training and support program; secured linkage agreements with area mental health agencies for referral and crisis intervention support; evaluated mental health assessment resources for adoption; and identified potential training in mental health first aid for faculty and staff. Expanded implementation of these initiatives is slated for the Spring 2021 semester.
At the November meeting, the Lake Land College Board of Trustees approved a contract with BetterMynd to provide online mental health counseling services to students. BetterMynd ensures that counselors are available at times that work for students and it also provides the opportunity for students to work with a consistent counselor over multiple counseling appointments.
In addition, a Lake Land College academic counselor is devoting a sabbatical to updating her clinical counseling skills and knowledge in areas such as suicide prevention and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) to assist her and the other academic counselors to better assess, assist and refer students in the future.
We are pleased to share our progress in creating a comprehensive mental health services plan that demonstrates our concern for our students. Historically, higher education has focused its efforts on providing opportunities to enhance the physical health of students. However, in considering the holistic health needs of our students, we now have an opportunity to openly discuss the need for mental health services, in a similar manner to how we discuss the need for physical health services. I welcome the opportunity to engage in a conversation about how we are assisting the mental health needs of our students, our employees and our communities. Together, we can share resources and build partnerships that contribute to the well-being of all.
As the state and nation celebrate Manufacturing Month, it is interesting to know that those who pursue a career path in this industry are very satisfied with their choice. A study by The Harris Poll discovered the vast majority, 86%, of manufacturing workers are happy with their jobs and 91% are proud of their work.
This outcome is good news for the Lake Land College district, where manufacturing is the largest employment sector according to the Data for Decision Makers study. Knowing this, Lake Land College continues to invest in programs that lead to a highly skilled workforce. A walk through the Technology wing of the West Building showcases the state-of-the-art equipment our students use on a daily basis. The Computer Integrated Manufacturing lab alone includes CNC mills and lathes, industrial robotics, coordinate measuring machines, laser cutters, 3D printers and a bank of computers with the latest design and production software. Real-work assignments challenge students to gain the skills needed to transition from lab to workforce.
During the past few years, we have focused on building partnerships and opportunities that expose high school students to the fascinating, highly technical world of manufacturing through dual credit courses, the Effingham Regional Career Academy and Manufacturing Day celebrations throughout the district. Our goal is to open students’ eyes to the numerous career paths woven into the manufacturing industry.
The Center for Business & Industry staff have developed short-term training programs in partnership with area companies to address the need for skilled employees. The programs combine classroom learning with hands-on training in the basics of manufacturing. The Center’s state-of-the-art Manufacturing Skills Lab provides a training facility for both new and incumbent employees who seek to advance their skillset. Each year, the Center for Business & Industry works with an average of 15 companies, training about 300 current or future employees.
This fall, Lake Land College affirmed its commitment to manufacturing training by investing in a new Workforce Development Center building on campus. The facility is under construction and is on track to open in early spring. It will house the Center for Business & Industry, Adult Education, Workforce investment and Opportunity, Pathways and Corrections Education.
We look forward to the opportunities the new facility will provide for faculty and Center for Business & Industry staff to collaborate on training initiatives and further enhance services to individuals and companies in our communities. The new Workforce Development Center, as well as the college’s 23 technology majors, provide the perfect path for individuals to enter the manufacturing field and join their peers in being highly satisfied with their career choice.
I encourage you to consider how Lake Land College can help your business or employees achieve strategic objectives. Whether the goal is to upskill current employees or create a foundational plan to increase productivity and efficiency in 2021, a partnership with Lake Land College can propel you toward success. I look forward to exploring these opportunities with you.
Substantive change requires steadfast focus, a commitment to bold and decisive action, and a spirit of fortitude when addressing challenges.
When I wrote this statement for the Lake Land College Strategic Plan in 2018, I had no idea how it would resonate as we entered the third year of the plan. Not only has it served as a guide to implement college-wide change, it has anchored all of us in our commitment to serving students during the pandemic.
I am proud to say that despite the numerous challenges brought forth by the pandemic, a recent update to the Lake Land College Board of Trustees shows we are making significant progress in the goals set forth by the strategic plan. Most importantly, the data indicates that our initiatives are helping students succeed.
During the past few years, faculty and staff have concentrated efforts to improve retention and assist students in completing their goals in a timely manner. We continue to see a positive trend in our student outcomes due to their work.
According to data from the National Student Clearinghouse, Lake Land College continues to excel in key areas of student success. The College’s retention rate for first-time, full-time community college students increased by more than 2% and exceeds the national average by 6% when examining data for fall 2014 through fall 2017 cohorts. First-time, full-time degree seekers at Lake Land are completing their degrees at nearly a 2 to 1 ratio when compared to their peers throughout the nation. And, retention and success rates for first-time, part-time Lake Land students increased 16% and 14% respectively. I invite you to review our latest Strategic Plan Bi-Annual Report that details numerous metrics we closely monitor to ensure our strategies support student success over the long term. The report may be viewed at: www.lakelandcollege.edu/creating-our-future/.
We have also seen significant progress in building a college-wide foundation in two key focus areas: 1. Implementing Guided Pathways to Success (GPS), while expanding K-12 and university partnerships, to provide a clear pathway to meaningful educational or career outcomes and 2. Implementing data analytics in support of GPS and furthering our commitment to becoming a data-informed institution. College staff reported positive outcomes on 18 strategies in support of these two key focus areas, while simultaneously supporting the three primary College goals: 1. Advance student success, 2. Fulfill evolving and emerging education and training needs, and 3. Commit to quality, access and affordability.
In addition to reporting these positive trends to you, in the final year of a normal planning cycle I would be reaching out to community partners throughout the district, asking for your assistance in creating our next strategic plan. However, due to the limitations of the pandemic, we are extending the current strategic planning cycle through 2022. We will remain steadfast in our mission to help every student succeed and truly look forward to the time when we can meet in person for a visioning session and work together to build a new roadmap for the future of Lake Land College. Until that time, I wish you a safe and enjoyable fall!
Lake Land College’s Fall 2020 Semester may look different than in the past, but the heart of our faculty and staff and the strength of our academics remain strong!
We are cleaning! We are planning! We are reaching out to make sure you are safe, well informed, included and prepared for your learning experience.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been amazed at the innovation, resiliency and determination of our students, faculty and staff. As we prepare for the Fall 2020 semester, our staff are busy setting up campus buildings and classrooms to ensure social distancing and protect your health.
These steps are part of the Lake Land College Return to Campus Plan, which aligns with the phases of the state’s Restore Illinois Plan and implements safety protocols to protect the well-being of students, employees and visitors.
Fall 2020 semester courses will be offered in a variety of formats including online, virtual face-to-face, on-campus and a blend of the formats.
Faculty are preparing their course materials to ensure students will have the best experiences possible. The Spring Transition Survey told us that the outreach and extra steps faculty took to help students navigate the online format had a significant impact on their success.
What will be different from the spring semester is that services will be available both virtually and in person for current and prospective students. Beginning August 10, college offices will be open with limited staffing to serve students in accordance with safety protocols.
Students will be encouraged to take advantage of virtual services whenever possible, but are welcome to make plans to visit campus. Current and prospective students will also be able to use a limited number of computer labs on campus and at extension centers to access the Internet and complete coursework.
All students, visitors and employees will be required to complete the self-assessment on the college’s COVID-19 website before entering a building and wear masks that cover the nose and mouth while in all Lake Land facilities.
As a public higher education institution in Illinois, we are required to follow directives established by the Illinois Community College Board, the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the state of Illinois.
Whatever the future brings, we will strive to keep the Laker community safe and provide the same value, education and experiences students expect from Lake Land College.
As a faculty member in the community college leadership doctoral program at Ferris State University, my students and I often discuss the role a shared vision plays in the success of an institution. After examining case studies and sharing personal experiences, we always seem to agree that a shared vision is crucial to the success of any organization.
When I came to Lake Land College in 2013, I was fortunate to join a group of people who believed in a shared vision−Engaging Minds, Changing Lives, through the Power of Learning. This statement is an extension of the “students come first” vision created by our founding fathers in 1966. It is woven into our culture and has served as the catalyst for our tremendous success and growth over the years.
At Lake Land, faculty and staff are committed to helping students create individualized plans for success. Every year around graduation, we ask graduates to tell us who has made a difference in their lives. In 2019, we received 900 responses with many faculty and staff receiving numerous words of thanks. The stories cover everything from a student’s gratitude to a passionate faculty member who inspired him to pursue a new career path to a student who was struggling in nursing school and later that night received an encouraging email from a faculty member.
These are just a few of the stories behind the data the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program recently considered when naming the top 15% of community colleges in the United States. The institute reviews nearly 1,000 community colleges biennially, looking for colleges with strong student outcome data—in learning, completion rates, employment rates and earnings and equity.
In 2020, the Aspen Institute named Lake Land College among the top 15% tier of community colleges in the nation, marking the college’s fourth time to receive this recognition in less than a decade.
Several of the data points reviewed by Aspen officials are also tracked in our Strategic Plan. According to the Lake Land College Strategic Planning FY 2019-2021 Report to the Board of Trustees, our retention and completion rates are exceeding the national averages.
The retention rate from fall-to-fall for all first-time community college students in the nation is about 62%, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. At Lake Land College, the fall-to-fall retention rates grew from 65.7% in fall 2014 to 68% in fall 2017, exceeding the national average.
The same is true for completion rates of first-time, full-time students completing a degree within three years of the expected time. The completion rate for the cohorts of these students between fall 2008 and fall 2015 at Lake Land averaged 50%. This is well above the national average of 23.5%.
As the data shows and the Aspen Institute recognized, assisting students in reaching their goals is the anchor to all that we do at Lake Land College. We continuously evaluate programs and services and develop enhancements to create an excellent learning environment for our students.
Receiving this honor from the Aspen Institute for the fourth time in less than a decade spotlights the outstanding collaboration and commitment our faculty, staff and trustees demonstrate on a daily basis. We are grateful to offer our community members the opportunity to grow and learn and in doing so, change their lives through the power of learning.
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
The spirit of Benjamin Franklin’s quote has come to life this season at Lake Land College. Our faculty, staff and students have been reaching out to the communities we serve to truly make a difference. In doing so, they are learning the value of being involved in their neighbors’ lives.
Throughout the semester, students from Philosophy/English Instructor Tara Blaser’s ethics course raised awareness surrounding domestic abuse and raised nearly $3,000 in cash and other charitable items to donate to HOPE of East Central Illinois in Charleston. Students contributed 30 hours of volunteer work, speaking at area high schools, selling sandwiches in Shelbyville and collecting items for mothers who are victims of abuse.
Students have also been generous in helping out our furry neighbors this season. Three faculty members created a competition between classes to collect items for the Coles County Animal Shelter. The competition accumulated more than 445 items including dog and cat toys, large and small animal beds and leashes, among several other items.
Students in the Broadcasting Club were busy sponsoring their twelfth annual food drive. Club members gave all the donations to the Laker Food Pantry on campus. This semester alone, the food pantry served 121 students and their families, for a total of 564 individuals.
This fall, Student Life groups created a float for the Special Olympics Family Festival parade; hosted a Red Cross Blood Drive; held a pizza/soda fundraiser to donate money to a college in the Bahamas that was devastated by a hurricane; and spread holiday wishes by caroling at five nursing home and assisted living facilities in Mattoon.
Numerous students and staff from the Lake Land College family assisted with the One Stop Community Christmas held on campus in December. Student athletes helped set up and assembled 1,300 food boxes. Staff worked within the organization to plan the event and many donated and volunteered to make One Stop a success and serve 999 families, including 2,392 children from our surrounding communities.
Several years ago, Student Life introduced the Serve Your Community option that provides an opportunity for students to earn a credential for volunteerism. Just halfway through the year, four students have submitted a total of 95 volunteer hours through this program.
It is inspiring to know so many of our students are motivated to participate in these service learning projects. It is even more inspiring to talk with them afterwards.
As Lacey Lynn, an ethics student said, “It’s empowering knowing that our class assignment allowed us to give back in a large way to those in need. None of us realized before this project just how fortunate we are to live the lives we’ve been given.”
Years from now, our Lake Land College students may not recall specific assignments, but they will recall the experiences they had learning more about their fellow man and how it felt to give back to their community.
As another year draws to a close, we reflect on how fortunate we are to work with so many talented individuals and dedicated community organizations. It is an honor to serve the region and we are proud to be your community’s college. On behalf of the Lake Land College Board of Trustees, faculty and staff we wish you a wonderful holiday season and happy New Year!
Since our founding in 1966, nearly 60,000 students have graduated from Lake Land College. Each year about 1,200 students graduate from on campus college programs, a total that is one of the best for community colleges in the country. Our completion rates for first-time degree-seeking students outpace the national average, according to the college’s recently published Strategic Plan Biannual Report Spring 2019. This measure of student success is one of the college’s key performance indicators within the 2019-2021 Strategic Plan. On average, 50% of first-time, full-time degree seekers at Lake Land complete an associate degree within three years, compared to a nationwide average of only 23.5% of community college students completing in the same time period. The fact that we exceed the national average by a significant margin is not a coincidence. From our first interaction with new students through to graduates, we intentionally provide the services and support they need to complete their education in a timely manner at Lake Land College. These excellent practices in areas such as academic counseling/advising, instructional effectiveness, academic services, student support services and responsiveness to the diverse needs of our students supplement the dedication and desire of faculty and staff to help students reach their full potential. These relationships are never more evident than at Commencement. Every year, I witness multiple faculty members walk up to their students as they approach the stage to congratulate them. You can see their pride in being able to share in the joy of the night with their students. Many of these students will embark on a career in the coming months, while others will begin work toward a bachelor’s degree. Of the students who transfer, we can expect them to be successful in their endeavors. According to the college’s annual Transfer Report, Lake Land College students who transfer to an Illinois public university earn an average GPA of 3.27 at the university, compared to an average GPA of 2.93 for students who begin their education as freshmen at the university. We can also expect them to be successful in completing their bachelor’s degrees. A recent report shows Illinois is leading the nation in the number of transfer students who are successfully graduating with a bachelor’s degree. The Illinois Board of Higher Education Data Points Transfer Success in Illinois reports on a national study that examined the transfer rates of all students who entered a community college in 2010. The report shows Illinois is not only the national leader, but it exceeds the national average by a noticeable margin. In fact, 53.8% of Illinois community college students who transferred to four-year colleges completed a bachelor’s degree within six years. This bachelor’s degree completion rate was 11.6 percentage points higher than the national average of 42.2%. In comparison, only 10% of college students throughout the nation complete a bachelor’s degree in four years, according to an analysis of 2014-2015 degree earners by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. While we are celebrating the success demonstrated in these reports, we remain dedicated to seeking out best practices and innovative approaches that enable 100% of Lake Land students to achieve their educational goals. The same Strategic Plan Biannual Report Spring 2019 illustrates our vision and a charted path forward to help all Lake Land students realize these same levels of success. Congratulations to our upcoming 2019 graduates!
A recently released report shows that many high school students throughout the Lake Land College district are taking advantage of dual credit options to earn college credit before they graduate. This valuable educational opportunity not only saves families hundreds in tuition costs, it accelerates a student’s time to complete a college degree. Dual credit courses simultaneously allow a student to meet high school requirements while getting a head start with college credits. Qualified high school faculty teach Lake Land College courses during the regular school day. In 2017-2018, the average Lake Land College Dual Credit student completed 8.2 credit hours, saving an average of almost $1,100 in tuition and fees. This resulted in a cumulative annual savings of more than $1.6 million in tuition and fees for Dual Credit students and their families. In addition to getting ahead and saving money, students gain confidence in their ability to be successful in college. Lake Land College Dual Credit students demonstrate their potential for success with their grades, earning an average GPA of 3.46 out of 4.0. Throughout the state of Illinois, dual credit students are also seeing success when they transfer. A recently released ICCB report shows enrollment in dual credit courses reduces the need for developmental education and reduces the time-to-degree for college students. Almost 90 percent of dual-enrollment students continued on to college after high school. Many of our Lake Land College Dual Credit students have been able to complete a bachelor’s degree in three and a half years compared to the national average of five. In comparison, only 10 percent of students enrolled in a four-year college completed a bachelor’s degree in four years, according to an analysis of 2014-2015 degree earners by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. In order to provide additional opportunities for dual credit, Lake Land College introduced two new options last year that provide more flexibility in format and location. The college understands the challenges many high schools face in securing college-level teachers and funding equipment and software for technology labs. These new options provide additional means for educational institutions to collaborate and provide training in high-demand technical fields, or courses in the General Education Core Curriculum (GECC). The GECC is a statewide program developed to facilitate the transfer of a student’s general education course credits. In other words, GECC courses taken at Lake Land College are transferrable to both public and private associate and baccalaureate degree-granting colleges and universities in Illinois. Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois Education for Employment (EIEFES) will be expanding early bird college programming options next year. Students may choose courses in high-demand fields such as automotive technology, welding, design and drafting. Classes will meet on campus from 7-9 a.m. Educators, students and parents are invited to learn more about this opportunity at an informational session on Wednesday, March 27 from 1–3 p.m. in the West Building, Farm Credit Services room. The Dual Credit program is just one of the numerous ways in which Lake Land College provides educational opportunities that meet the needs of students, families, educational partners and area businesses. With 31 percent of the Lake Land College district population holding an associate degree or higher, compared to an average of 41 percent statewide, there is enormous potential to elevate the skill and educational attainment of residents to fuel the advancement of our local economy.
During the month of February, the Illinois community college system focuses on the value career and technical education (CTE) programs have on our state. In 2018, about two-thirds of all Illinois community college graduates earned a CTE degree or certificate. These programs play a vital role in our society and prepare individuals for high-skill, in-demand employment that furthers Illinois’ global competitiveness. Just as the programs are vital to the state’s economy, they are essential to East Central Illinois. At Lake Land College, we offer more than 100 degree and certificate Workforce Ready programs, which make up about 75 percent of our graduates on an annual basis. Workforce Ready programs offer flexible scheduling, work-based learning and stackable credentials that provide a pathway from education to employment not only for recent high school graduates, but also for returning adults, veterans and incumbent workers seeking to update skills. To ensure that students acquire the skills and knowledge they need to be successful, faculty contextualize instruction to the application of skills in the workplace and offer access to state-of-the-art technology. At Lake Land College there are more than 40 technical training labs that prepare students for true-to-life workplace experiences. For example, John Deere Tech students perform diagnostics and repairs on the company’s latest equipment; nursing students experience births through a patient simulator; and radio-TV students host live FM radio programs on WLKL. Students in dental hygiene, cosmetology, esthetics and massage therapy practice their skills on clients from the community in professional clinics on campus and at the Kluthe Center in Effingham. To ensure students are prepared to meet the needs of our business community, Lake Land College consistently seeks input from industry leaders and hiring managers. Through our program advisory committees, faculty consult with area professionals to ensure our course content is preparing students to be successful in their field. During the past few years, the college has met with experts in 10 industries to determine the skills and programs that are in high demand. For example, faculty and staff have used the “Developing a Curriculum,” or DACUM process, to guide the creation of a new Public Safety Telecommunicator program that trains students to become 911 dispatchers; to incorporate ag precision training throughout the agriculture curriculum; and to gather the essential skills needed for success in the newly developed court reporting degree. Lake Land College is equally committed to providing this training to our students in an affordable manner. While many private technical schools require students to take out crippling loan debt, Lake Land College offers students a financially feasible path to a life-sustaining career. With programs ranging from eight weeks to two years, the potential earnings of a community college graduate far exceeds the cost of a Lake Land College education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, students who enter the workforce with a community college degree will boost their earning power by 16 percent, allowing them to enter the workforce with a positive financial outlook. To put the value of a Workforce Ready degree into perspective, consider that a Lake Land education costs roughly $4,000 per year, or $8,000 for an associate degree. A student who graduates in two years and secures employment in a technical field at $40,000 per year will see a net positive return of $32,000 on his or her educational investment within the first year of employment. Not only are these alumni your employees and co-workers, they are the residents who fuel your local economy. During this month of celebration, I invite you to consider how we can work together to create new opportunities for students to complete career and technical training that will benefit you and your community.
Recent data released by the United States Census Bureau shows the population of the state of Illinois dropped by more than 45,100 people between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018. This represents the second largest percentage drop in population among any state. Undoubtedly, there are a multitude of reasons for the net loss, including that many families and individuals moved to other states in pursuit of employment and educational opportunities. Of those pursing a higher education, several patterns emerge. Data from the Illinois Board of Higher Education shows the percentage of high school graduates choosing to attend out-of-state four-year colleges and universities has grown by 57 percent since 2002. According to the latest Illinois Report Card , 32 percent of 2018 Illinois high school graduates enrolled in four-year colleges, both in-state or out-of-state, within 12 months of graduating. In contrast, 43 percent of 2018 high school graduates chose to attend community college, with 97 percent enrolling in a community college in Illinois. Why is this noteworthy? Community college students overwhelmingly learn and work in their local communities. A recent study by Emsi and the Wall Street Journal indicates 61 percent of community college graduates stay within 50 miles of their alma mater. This translates to a trained workforce and transfer ready pool of students for our state and region. In East Central Illinois, we have an opportunity to strengthen our talent pool from within. Lake Land faculty and staff regularly hear from employers seeking to hire our graduates. Many are willing to pay sign-on bonuses, hire students part-time while they complete their degrees or cover relocation costs−not to mention starting salaries upwards of $40,000. How can we work together to share these opportunities with potential students? How can we convince our young high school graduates that investing in two more years of education will provide them with a lifetime of earning potential? What partnerships can we form to ease the financial burden of attending college for these students? As a community leader, you may be surprised to learn that many of our students want to stay in the area after they graduate, but are not always aware of the local career opportunities. We regularly hear from students who assume they need to relocate to find gainful employment in their field of study. Lake Land College Physics Instructor Rakhsha Nasseripour is leading a team to bridge this gap. In 2018, she surveyed our engineering students and discovered 93 percent would like to have an internship at an engineering company, yet only 50 percent were aware of such companies in our area. Additionally, 50 percent stated they would like to remain in this area if they could find an engineering job locally. These findings propelled Nasseripour’s team to create an advisory council of area industry leaders to discuss options for connecting local students to their businesses. Students now take field trips to area businesses, and this spring the advisory council will meet to discuss a new internship program for engineering students. This is just one example of how Lake Land College faculty and staff partner with business and community leaders to create new opportunities for students and, in turn, support local industry and the economic development of our area. As we look to the future, I welcome your thoughts and ideas on how we can continue working together to create more of these opportunities so our area residents and high school graduates know an investment in a quality education from Lake Land College will result in a good-paying career right here in east central Illinois.
Individuals who give to the Lake Land College Foundation do so because they believe in creating opportunities for our students. Even though they do not expect any recognition for their gifts, at Lake Land College we welcome opportunities to express our gratitude to them. Earlier this year, we had the unique opportunity to recognize five friends of the college who have had a significant impact on our students, our college and our communities. The Foundation shared the good works of our Lake Land College friends by nominating them for annual awards presented by the East Central Illinois Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFPECI). The organization covers the communities of Champaign-Urbana, Danville, Mattoon, Charleston, Effingham and Decatur. AFPECI gathered for its annual National Philanthropy Day celebration in mid-November and recognized the five Lake Land College award finalists. They were: The Fuqua Foundation, nominated for Outstanding Foundation or Organization; the Cromwell Radio Group, nominated for Outstanding Philanthropic Corporation; Wayne and the late Clara Borgic, nominated for Outstanding Philanthropist; Steve & Debbie Benefiel, nominated for Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising; and Jackie Joines, nominated for Outstanding Fundraising Executive. It was quite an honor to attend the lunch with our Lake Land College nominees, family, friends and Lake Land staff. We were quite proud of our nominees and even more delighted when the organization presented well-deserved awards to the Borgics, Benefiels and Joines. The Outstanding Philanthropist award went to Wayne and the late Clara Borgic. The Borgics made a life estate gift of 355 acres of farm ground northeast of Pana to the Lake Land College Foundation in agreement for retaining the land for educational purposes. Income from the farm supports two scholarships and other needs. This is the first gift of its kind to the Foundation and is in a category of its own in value. The Borgics’ vision for their estate will positively impact students’ lives well into our next 50 years. Steve & Debbie Benefiel of Paris received the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising award from AFPECI. They own Pearman Pharmacy in Paris and are involved in numerous community and area organizations that truly make a difference in so many lives. Mrs. Benefiel has devoted 24 years of service to the Lake Land College Foundation Board of Directors and together, they support the Foundation with two annual scholarships. The couple is well known in their community for assisting students in need who are pursuing an education. It is inspiring to see how two people can have such a significant impact on their community. Jackie Joines, executive director for college advancement, received the Outstanding Fundraising Executive award from the AFPECI. Joines is a tireless advocate for Lake Land College. She enthusiastically works with donors to discover unique means for them to give to the college. She is very active in the AFPECI organization, the entire Lake Land College district and her community. The late Karen Fuqua’s generosity and kindness lives on in perpetuity through the Fuqua Foundation, a finalist for the AFPECI Outstanding Foundation or Organization award. Fuqua left a substantial amount of her estate to fund scholarships through the Lake Land College Foundation, providing at least four annual nursing scholarships each year. Fuqua served as a Lake Land College Board of Trustee member and was passionate about helping those in need as an attorney, board member and Lake Land College Foundation donor. The Cromwell Radio Group, nominated for Outstanding Philanthropic Corporation, believes in serving the community through numerous organizations and events. Cromwell Radio was the driving force in a community partnership of more than 170 agencies in a seven-county area that created One Stop Community Christmas. This annual effort helps more than 1,000 families with 2,500 children. Cromwell Radio is also a major supporter of the Foundation and college. Laker Alumni Bub McCullough & Renee Fonner, drive time on-air personalities, have given thousands of hours helping those in our communities. The accomplishments of our nominees are humbling. I am honored that they choose to serve Lake Land College and our students. In this season of gratitude, I thank all of our donors whose generosity allows so many students to start their stories of success at Lake Land College.
As we enter the season of gratitude, please accept my sincere thanks for all you do for Lake Land College. Whether you hire our graduates, educate our future students, partner with us on training and community outreach or give to the Foundation, your contributions are essential to the success of Lake Land College and our students. Our success stories can be seen throughout campus and in our communities. As we talk with alumni we find they all share a common belief−their success started at Lake Land College. These stories are at the heart of our new “Thanks, Lake Land” campaign that kicks off today with this introductory video. In upcoming weeks, we will be sharing individual stories from our alumni, partners and students. We invite you to be a part of the campaign by sharing your story on social media using the hashtag #ThanksLakeLand. You can also join us by displaying a yard sign or window cling in your home or business. Details on how to get involved are available on the Thanks Lake Land website. My #ThanksLakeLand story begins with the incredible opportunity to serve as president of one of the best colleges in the country. I am grateful for the solid academic foundation the college provided my two daughters, who both graduated from Lake Land and successfully transferred to fine Illinois public universities. I am also thankful to work with outstanding colleagues and students in a family atmosphere. Our faculty and staff are known for going above and beyond to help students who are struggling. One recent example of this is the way in which we are able to address some of our students’ needs for basic necessities through the new Laker Food Pantry. With a generous donation to the Lake Land College Foundation, the college was able to open the food pantry on campus in collaboration with the Eastern Illinois Foodbank. To continue this spirit of generosity, the Lake Land College Foundation and Alumni Board are issuing the #LakerChallenge to all of us on Giving Tuesday, set for November 27. The challenge is simple−give $5. Gifts can be made securely online. All gifts collected on Giving Tuesday will go toward the Laker Food Pantry. While $5 may seem minimal, the potential impact is amazing. In fact, if each Lake Land College Alumni who lives in Illinois gave $5, we could supply the Laker Food Pantry with food for our students and their families for more than one year. Food insecurity is a real issue among our students and I am truly humbled to think that students are often forced to choose between school related expenses and food. It is inspiring to consider that if we all participate in the Laker Challenge we can ensure our hard-working students and their families do not go without food. We are truly thankful to be your community college and have the opportunity to impact so many lives. This season, I encourage you to give thanks for every person or organization that has positively impacted your life. We welcome you to share your #ThanksLakeLand story and tell us how Lake Land has changed your life. I, for one, look forward to hearing your story!
Earlier this year Lake Land College undertook an effort to better understand the demographics of the residents and communities it serves across its 15 county district. To assist with this endeavor, Lake Land reached out to the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences Extension office. Experts from the Extension office conducted an in-depth study of the demographic and economic factors of the communities within the Lake Land College district.
We learned a great deal from the research and along the way realized how valuable the research and data that resulted from this endeavor could be for all of our business and community partners in east central Illinois. We are excited to share it with you on the new website for the office of the president.
The report, titled Data for Decision Makers, covers key areas such as population, household income levels, educational attainment, employment by industry and occupation and employment projections. The report includes data from 31 public school districts in the communities of: Altamont, Arthur, Beecher City, Brownston, Casey-Westfield, Charleston, Cowden-Herrick, Cumberland, Dieterich, Effingham, Jasper County, Kansas, Marshall, Martinsville, Mattoon, Neoga, North Clay, Oakland, Okaw Valley, Pana, Paris, Ramsey, Shelbyville, Shiloh, South Central, St. Elmo, Stewardson-Strasburg, Sullivan, Teutopolis and Windsor.
To assist the college with better understanding the behaviors, spending patterns, educational attainment and lifestyle choices, the Extension staff researchers included information from the ESRI Business Analyst 2017 report. The report identifies the top three ESRI Tapestry Segments in our district, which describe neighborhoods based on socioeconomic and demographic data.
Interestingly, the Lake Land College region as a whole is described first as a Heartland Community. According to the ESRI Demographic web page, we are “settled and close-knit…semirural and semiretired. These older householders are primarily homeowners, and many have paid off their mortgages. Their children have moved away, but they have no plans to leave their homes. Their hearts are with the country; they embrace the slower pace of life here but actively participate in outdoor activities and community events. Traditional and patriotic, these residents support their local businesses, always buy American, and favor domestic driving vacations over foreign plane trips.”
In addition to the tapestry segments, the Data for Decision Makers report includes detailed economic data, showing the poverty level within the Lake Land College district ranges from a low of 9.8 percent to as high as 19.3 percent. The numbers are even more staggering when we look at our youth population. The percentage of low income students within the K-12 school districts in 2016-2017 ranged from a low of 10 percent to a high of 74 percent.
At Lake Land College, we will be looking closely at this data for opportunities to partner with educational institutions, businesses and communities to advance student success, educate a skilled workforce and enhance the educational attainment of our citizens. We hope you will join us in considering how this data can open new conversations as we collectively plan for the future of our region.
As your community college, our goal is to provide services that are relevant to your businesses and communities. We are proud to partner with many community and economic organizations throughout the district to achieve goals that improve the opportunities in our area.
By seeking feedback from industry leaders and professionals on our program advisory boards we regularly gather input to improve our courses and program offerings. During the past few years, Lake Land College has created nine new programs and made significant changes to eight existing programs in response to industry feedback and workforce needs. Our expert faculty, staff and Center for Business & Industry resources allow us to be flexible and responsive to the needs of employers.
Regionally, we are experiencing a gap between the number of job openings and the trained, skilled employees available to fill those positions. This gap is magnified on a national level. According to a recent study conducted by Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Manufacturing Institute, six out of 10 skilled production positions currently go unfilled due to a lack of trained applicants. In just seven years, the unfilled jobs in manufacturing are projected to top 2 million. These projections are particularly relevant in our Lake Land College district as manufacturing is by far the largest employment sector, according to the Data for Decision Makers report prepared by the University of Illinois Extension and Lake Land College.
Part of developing a solution to this issue is to create training programs that move students through an educational module in a timely fashion. We realize employee shortages drain the bottom line. To address this issue, Lake Land College has partnered with industry leaders to provide training in non-traditional, accelerated formats. Recent examples include the IT-LaunchCode, 20-week web application development certificate and LSC Communications Fast Track, an eight-week manufacturing skills certificate.
We understand the process of hiring skilled employees can also be a challenge. Lake Land College’s fast track partnerships offer companies a means to integrate skill development into the hiring process. By screening the applicants ahead of time and offering courses relevant to the needs of a specific industry, graduates are well trained and ready to be hired in just weeks versus years.
Our Lake Land College Board of Trustees recently reaffirmed the college’s commitment to developing a trained workforce for the region we serve through creation of a new Workforce Solutions Tuition and Fee waiver program. If a district business develops a specialized certificate program in collaboration with the college, and the business promises to hire all of the completers, the college will guarantee tuition and fees will be covered for the students. In other words, as long as an employer agrees to hire the graduates, then there is no out of pocket cost to the sponsoring business or the students. It’s that simple.
We want to ensure students have the opportunity to take advantage of these unique opportunities to earn a valuable education, while creating a pathway for a successful career right here in our community. We also want our local employers to know we are committed to helping take their companies to the next level.
Partnerships like these are the key to providing an educated workforce that in turn results in a thriving economy and community. What can Lake Land College do to help your company reach its goals? Let’s start the conversation.
Many times I am asked how Lake Land College developed a new innovative idea or formed a unique partnership with an organization that truly fulfilled its needs. People are often surprised by my very simple response: “It all started with a conversation.”
Conversations are the cornerstone of what we do here at Lake Land and what I know you do every day as volunteers in your community, leaders in your company and educators of our youth. Today, I extend an invitation to you to be a part of the conversations we are having here at Lake Land College.
As your community college, we want to talk with you about the data we have gathered, the innovative solutions we have implemented and the accomplishments of our organization as we strive to meet the district’s needs.
And, as your community college, we want to listen.
To connect us across the miles, we have launched a new online presence for the Office of the President. The site includes updated information on district-wide data, college and regional reports and resources that we hope you will utilize in making decisions or creating plans for the future.
The site also includes brief biographies and contact information for my office and that of our college cabinet.
To stay in touch, we ask that you sign up to receive monthly emails on topics relevant to our communities, businesses and education. To share content specific to your interests, we ask that you identify with at least one of the following categories: alumni, business, community, education and Lake Land College retiree.
And, as I said earlier, I truly want to know what is going on in your area. Please take advantage of the website link to invite me to attend or speak at your upcoming event. I welcome the opportunity to share our Lake Land story and learn of new opportunities for Lake Land College to serve.
You will find the site at lakelandcollege.edu. Look for the “About Us” drop-down menu and click on “Office of the President.”
I look forward to our next conversation.
On May 11, 2018, Lake Land College celebrated its 50th spring commencement. In those five decades, more than 56,500 students have graduated from Lake Land College and moved on to brighter futures.
To put the college’s impact into perspective, one in four people living in the East Central Illinois Lake Land district is a Laker Alumnus. Our graduates are likely your neighbors, your community leaders and your trusted nurses, teachers and service technicians.
During this year’s celebration, we were fortunate to welcome back several Lake Land College Board of Trustee members who served throughout our history. Len Defend, Henry Merz, Carl Hart, Gary Kuhns and Kent Metzger joined Bob Johnston and Dr. Leland McNeil who served on the very first Lake Land College Board. In those early years, trustees established a unique higher educational opportunity that put the needs of students first. They never imagined Lake Land would grow from a small college holding its first commencement in 1968 at the First Baptist Church in Mattoon to a nationally-recognized college serving 20,000 students per year, celebrating 1,600 graduates each spring and hosting an expansive, beautiful 317-acre campus.
The Laker Nation Class of 1968 included many nurses, business majors and technical graduates. The Laker Nation Class of 2018 received degrees and certificates in more than 150 majors. It includes students who entered college immediately upon high school completion, those who returned to college after several years in the workplace and those who enrolled in college to train for a new career.
One of those graduates is Dustin Rhoads. Early in his career, Dustin completed degrees in Emergency Medical Services and Nursing, but found he thrived on the pace of the emergency services profession. He returned to Lake Land and graduated this spring with a degree in Paramedical Services.
Charles Cox found himself at Lake Land College after his position was eliminated at GE. He hadn’t been in a classroom for 30 years, yet with determination and hard work he achieved his goal. He often slept in his car after working third shift before class and took advantage of tutoring services to help him through math courses. Like many of our graduates, he was hired in a new job before he even graduated.
Tina Hooper graduated from high school more than 30 years before she enrolled in college. She first completed a basic nurse assisting course and then went on to pursue an associate degree in Human Services. She discovered her true potential and will transfer to Eastern Illinois University this fall following graduation.
Tina, Charles and Dustin are just a few of the many outstanding graduates who have worked hard to reach their goals. As college leaders we can only imagine the challenges many of our students have overcome and worked through to join us onstage during commencement.
We thank all who have been a part of our commencement celebration. As our anniversary festivities come to a close this summer, we look forward to another 50 years of serving you and our communities, and celebrating with our future graduates.
April is National Community College month, an appropriate time to dispel myths about transferability of community college credits and celebrate Lake Land’s success in preparing students to transfer on to a four-year institution and earn a bachelor’s degree.
Whether a student is transferring to an in-state university, or a college outside Illinois, Lake Land College offers transferable degrees and courses that ensure transfer students are well prepared for the next stage of their academic journey. Our Institutional Research office compiles an annual report that details the grade point averages (GPA) of our transfer students at their transfer institution. Each year, the data tells us that our graduates earn GPAs for their coursework at the transfer university that are higher than the students who began their journey at that campus. For example, in 2017, the average university GPA of all Lake Land transfer students was 3.27 compared to an average GPA of 2.93 for native university students who enrolled as freshmen.
In addition, Lake Land transfer students are overwhelmingly successful in their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. The 2017 Transfer Report looked at a cohort of Lake Land students between 2011 and 2017 that transferred to a four-year institution. Of those cohort students, 93 percent of them graduated with a bachelor’s degree and 87 percent of them did so from an Illinois university.
We pride ourselves on these data points, but they tell only part of the story. The entire Laker experience is designed around high standards of academic rigor and support services that lead to student success. Once a student declares a Transfer Ready major, academic counselors and advisors work with him or her to create a personalized path ensuring Lake Land courses will count toward the intended major at the transfer university.
If students need to explore options, they can stop by the Transfer Resource Room in the Northwest Building. Students can meet with university transfer coordinators and gather information from U.S. colleges. They can also visit the Counseling Services website where they will find established transfer guides and resources. Don’t see the preferred transfer college there? No worries. An academic counselor will work with that university to create an individualized plan for the student.
Mapping out courses is just one step in the journey. At Lake Land, students have access to free tutoring as well as several opportunities to build their resumes with leadership skills, community service and campus involvement. Those of particular interest to transfer students include the National Society of Leadership and Success and the Honors Experience which combines the valuable options of the Presidential Scholarship, Phi Theta Kappa honorary society and enhanced learning through honors courses.
We are excited to welcome a new group of transfer students to campus this summer and fall. No matter from which university a student ultimately would like to earn a bachelor’s degree, Lake Land is an affordable and well-respected college to begin the journey. For those students graduating this spring who are undecided, please know they will always be welcome here at their community college, Lake Land College.
APRIL 6- The oldest community college in the nation, Illinois’ Joliet Junior College*, was established some 117 years ago by then Joliet Township High School Superintendent J. Stanley Brown and University of Chicago President William Rainey Harper. Advocates for higher education, Brown and Harper encouraged students to attend college as a pathway to prosperity. Realizing that a university education was financially out of reach for many students, Brown and Harper introduced the importance of a low-cost, high quality education that could be pursued locally, and thus the community college was born. Despite the G.I. Bill (1944), federally guaranteed student loans (1965) and Pell grants (1980) which expanded access to higher education for millions of Americans since that time, the important role of community colleges has not changed.
Following more than a century of existence there is still a lack of clarity among some as to the mission of community colleges. President Trump’s recent statement, “I don’t know what that means, a community college. Call it vocational and technical. People know what that means. They don’t know what a community college means” reflects that as community colleges we must continue to broadly and vocally tell our story and share our collective mission.
Certainly vocational and technical training remain a piece of our mission, yet the totality of the programs and services we offer to our communities extends well beyond this limited moniker. Today’s community colleges are often the economic engine for their local communities and the first choice for many students to begin, or-re-establish, their educational and professional journey. Program offerings are driven by local business and industry needs for a skilled workforce and through partnerships with universities to provide access to baccalaureate degrees. Community colleges serve a rich diversity of individuals from all socio-economic, cultural and generational backgrounds, extending well beyond traditional college age students to include high school students, returning adults, incumbent workers and senior citizens.
April is community college month, providing the perfect venue to give thanks for, and extol the virtues of, the work our nation’s 1,100 community colleges undertake to serve more than 12 million students who walk through our doors in a given year. Walter Bumphus, president of the American Association of Community Colleges, summed it up best in a recent editorial by stating, “Traditional and cutting-edge, community colleges represent the best of American higher education. They are unapologetically accessible and provide a critical pathway for students to reach their educational goals. For many students, that means they complete their first two years of college without a mountain of debt, with a solid foundation taught by many of the same professors that teach students in the university setting, and with a guaranteed transfer to a university. For the community college, they do this with less money and far less alumni support than their university counterparts.”
Community colleges are truly America’s colleges. As community college month is celebrated across the country, I feel proud to be part of our Lake Land family and want to thank each of you for your dedication to our mission, and for your efforts in helping our students achieve the American Dream of a college education.
*Though not often recognized in our history, which college was actually the first junior college is a topic of continued dispute among Lasell College in Auburndale, MA and Vincennes University in Vincennes, IN.
MARCH 26– If I asked how you think most college students learn, most likely you would say through lectures, reading textbooks, studying and taking tests. While this model is the traditional foundation of our higher education system, today’s learning environments are rapidly changing. Open educational resources (OER), electronic textbooks, video conferencing, virtual reality, game based learning and so many more innovations are finding their way into the lesson plans of educators.
While traditional classroom concepts are evolving, our college continues to build on unique learning experiences. Our Workforce Ready programs, also known as career and technical majors, have always relied heavily on a combination of book and hands-on learning using real-world tools and techniques. This combination of learning works so well for thousands of students each year at Lake Land and more than two-thirds of all community college students in Illinois, according to the Illinois Community College Board.
At Lake Land College, we offer more than 100 Workforce Ready majors that train students with the skills necessary to graduate and enter the regional workforce. Our latest economic impact study indicated that nine out of 10 area employers have hired a Lake Land College alumnus in the past. We’re seeing similar results with our current Laker Alumni Pride campaign. One area company discovered 25 percent of its 400 employees are Laker Alumni. Another was excited to report that all of their employees were alumni. What an amazing testament to Lake Land’s impact on our local economy.
These alumni made the wise decision to invest in a Lake Land College education, allowing them to enter the workforce with a positive financial outlook. To put the value of a Workforce Ready degree into perspective, consider that a Lake Land education costs roughly $4,000 per year, or $8,000 for a degree. A student who graduates in two years and secures employment in a technical field at $40,000 per year will see a net positive return of $72,000 after four years. In that same four-year time period, a student who attends a university will face an average of $16,000 per year in tuition and fees (excluding room and board), or $64,000 for a degree. At the conclusion of those four years, the graduate will just be getting started, possibly facing a future with significant student loan debt.
Through our program advisory committees, Lake Land College instructors regularly consult with industry professionals to ensure our course content is relevant and reflects the needs of area businesses. Our faculty regularly seek new opportunities to help students reach their educational goals. This summer the college will introduce the new IT-LaunchCode certificate, in conjunction with St. Louis based tech training company LaunchCode. This 20-week boot camp trains students in web application development skills and will be offered in the evenings at the Lake Land Kluthe Center in Effingham. The Medical Assistant major has added a new flexible online component to its options. Students can now take all of their classes online and only have to travel to campus one night a week for lab.
Providing relevant work experience is at the forefront of our Workforce Ready programs and these opportunities will expand with a new apprenticeship program that is being developed through a grant from the Illinois Community College Board. Plans are to create at least 30 new apprenticeships in both the production technician and the plastics manufacturing fields as well as the finance and banking field.
As you think about your future, or that of your child’s, I encourage you to explore a Workforce Ready major at Lake Land College. The combination of hands-on learning and classroom experience may be a perfect investment in your future success.
FEB. 2- In what has been dubbed a potential watershed moment in healthcare, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, and JP Morgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon announced the formation of a new healthcare company this week. The company will be established under the seldom used B corporation structure to serve society in such a way that the company is obligated to balance profit and purpose. Essentially, the endeavor strives to change the face of healthcare as we know it today and bring innovation to an industry many feel is fraught with inefficiencies, unnecessary costs and a lack of patient centeredness. As Forbes noted, “With this new health care company, they seem to have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn words into action, make a legacy play that would impact the lives of millions in the near term, and help fix a broken system in the longer term.”
Granted the history of healthcare is filled with stories of companies attempting to change the landscape, and failing. Some pundits would argue that the healthcare system in the United States is simply too large and entrenched in its ways to make any meaningful and substantive change possible. But, Amazon has proven to be a disruptive force in whatever industry it has entered, and it rarely fails. And consider that the three lead organizations are known to play the long-game, emphasizing systemic change over short-term gains. In essence, their efforts likely won’t be easily discouraged by bumps along the way and they are certain to see more CEOs clamoring to join the party.
By now you may be wondering what relevance a new partnership in healthcare may have on the world of higher education, and how did it find its way into a Bull’s Eye column? For starters, there are many similarities between healthcare and higher education. Both are esteemed institutions deeply woven into the fabric of our country, filled with rich histories and a passionate commitment to tradition. More importantly, healthcare is not the only industry under the watchful eye of Amazon. While news broke of the Bezos, Buffett and Dimon collaboration in healthcare, Amazon was quietly building on its educational capacity.
Just this week Amazon hired Candace Thille, a Stanford University leader in learning science and open education, to be its director of learning science and engineering. According to the digital news site Quartz, “Thille is famous specifically for her data-driven work, conducted at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon University, on nontraditional ways of learning, teaching, and training.” Although Amazon’s move to strengthen its education platform currently appears more focused on workplace training than traditional academics, it does give us pause to consider the next possible step in its evolution. Is an Amazon college degree on the horizon?
With Amazon appearing quite comfortable taking on the complex and bureaucratic U.S. healthcare system, it likely would have few qualms entering the equally complex and bureaucratic higher education landscape. Although far from imminent, Amazon’s hiring of a higher education expert provides a foreshadowing of what is to come, and a stark reminder that we must diligently innovate to remain relevant. Today, more than ever, higher education administration and faculty must work together to address the rapidly changing landscape. We must be willing to let go of tradition to develop academic offerings, delivery modalities and services that are truly student-centric and data-informed. Success will require a renewed agility in responding to local needs and a certain level of comfort with taking calculated risks. And, if you don’t believe me, just ask Alexa!
Dr. Josh Bullock
Lake Land College President
FEB. 9- Just this week legislation was introduced in Illinois to merge the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) and the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE). Senator Chapin Rose introduced SB2597 which proposes to form a new Illinois Board of Higher Education to oversee all functions currently managed by ICCB, ISAC and IBHE. The proposed new board would have equal representation from community colleges and universities, and faculty from each institution would be actively engaged.
tails of HB4103 introduced last fall by Representative Dan Brady and Senator Rose to create higher education strategic centers of excellence. As outlined by the JG-TC the bill “calls for a comprehensive overhaul of higher education, including a uniform admissions application for all public universities, automatic admission to an ‘academically appropriate’ public university for high school students with a grade B or better average, merit-based financial aid and a ranking of the quality of academic departments,” in addition to the possibility of a performance-based funding model.
Couple the proposed legislation with the recent formation of a bipartisan legislative working group to discuss means of strengthening higher education in the state and a picture begins to form that we are on the cusp of change in Illinois.
Let me be clear that I am neither endorsing nor criticizing the proposed legislation, as we are far too early in the process to make any clear judgments on the impact and merits of the proposals. Rather, I think the legislative movement serves as another stark reminder that we need to remain relevant and innovative in our work.
In all fairness, the epic challenges facing higher education are not confined to Illinois’ state boundaries. A February 6th editorial in Forbes clearly outlined the myriad of forces impacting higher education today from escalating costs amidst tightening resources to declining enrollments pressuring increased competition. These forces are driving colleges and universities to proactively change their historically conservative and tradition-bound business models, as evidenced by several notable examples of institutions that have reached beyond their comfort zone to experiment with new programs, services, delivery modalities and funding structures.
Southern New Hampshire University, for example, was a small private college serving roughly 5,000 students in 1995 prior to branching into a national on-line program model geared toward working adults. Today, the university has a global presence and serves 80,000 online students. Other institutions, such as Georgia Tech with its $10,000 on-line master’s degree, Arizona State with its Global Freshman Academy, and Purdue with its recent purchase of the for-profit Kaplan University, are transforming higher education through calculated risk taking in the pursuit of satiating student changing demands.
The headwinds in higher education are shifting and the colleges that find success navigating the turbulent waters are those willing to adjust the main sail and glide into uncharted waters. We can either lead the transformation, or be led. I am confident the Lake Land family has the creativity, intellect and fortitude to adjust the sails and traverse the less traveled seas. So all hands on deck, grab a rope, and anchors away!
Originally published February 26, 2015
Prologue: With recent discussions centering on innovation at Lake Land College, it seemed appropriate to re-share a Bull’s Eye article originally published in February 2015. Hopefully it adds to the ideas currently circulating in your minds!
In a recent Brookings Institution article the firm introduces a viable alternative to the more traditional higher education model, the microdegree. The MOOC powerhouse Coursera is partnering with “Google, Instagram and other tech firms to launch what some are calling ‘microdegrees’ – a set of online courses plus a hands-on capstone project designed in conjunction with top universities and leading high-tech firms.”
The microdegrees, or nanodegrees as MOOC developer Udacity calls them, are designed to be highly focused workforce driven degrees that prepare individuals for employment in specific job fields. Although many may still consider MOOCs a passing fad they are evolving and gaining traction in the marketplace. The Brookings Institution posits MOOCS stand poised to present a credible threat to the traditional higher education model for several reasons.
First, MOOC developers have worked hard to shore up quality issues that plagued early attempts, much as universities and colleges have as they navigated the online educational marketplace over the past several decades. MOOC firms are building credibility and capacity through partnerships with prestigious colleges and universities, such as the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Georgia Tech.
Second, major corporations who are frustrated with a perceived disconnect between traditional higher education and the workforce needs are beginning to see value in focused training for its employees through MOOCs. The article notes, “New entrants like College for America, which now offers a $10,000 bachelor’s degree, are also teaming up with major employers such as Anthem Blue Cross, Gulf Oil, and McDonald’s to offer customized degrees.”
Third, moves to streamline and reform higher education accrediting processes have opened the door for new learning modalities and business models. In addition, having major employers certify the microdegree curriculum lends tremendous market credibility to those looking to garner workforce skills.
Finally, microdegrees offer a pathway to customized degree programs. Although a single microdegree may not in itself make one individual more employable than another, the linking of multiple microdegrees into a more comprehensive degree could provide a unique pathway to employment. Imagine a world where a college or university couples several microdegrees from various institutions with some type of capstone activity to create a customized and comprehensive college degree.
I realize there are folks who will dismiss MOOCs and microdegrees as passing fads, much as they may have done with online education 20 years ago, but the reality is our higher education landscape is evolving rapidly. New delivery modalities, an increasingly competitive landscape, fiscal belt tightening and growing public cynicism for the value of a college education will continue to impact our world. Like it or not, agree or disagree, the institution of higher education is changing and the traditional model is simply not sustainable in the long term. If we are to continue engaging minds, and changing lives, through the power of learning then we absolutely must embrace our core value of innovation and lead the charge.
JAN. 18– Over the past decade a crisis has been brewing that has the potential to profoundly impact the very foundation of higher education. The crisis surrounds the precipitous rise of student loan debt. Over the past decade student loan debt in the United States has grown by 150 percent, topping out at $1.4 trillion. As Forbes magazine notes, “student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt – and higher than both credit cards and auto loans.”
More than 44 million U.S. residents, roughly 14 percent of the population, are saddled with student loan debt. The data demonstrates that student loan debt is forcing many individuals to delay major life events, like purchasing a home, getting married or having children.
Fortunately, college students in our area have the opportunity to create a future with a much brighter forecast. By choosing Lake Land College to start, or earn, their college degree their future life plans can include vacations, new cars, a walk down the aisle and mortgage payments. Lake Land College’s tuition and fees for two years are about $7,800, including textbooks. In contrast, the average cost for tuition and fees for the first two years of a bachelor’s degree from a public university is about $28,000. Add on the cost of housing, estimated at $20,000, and the purchasing of textbooks, estimated at $2,600 and the tab for those two years quickly escalates.
In essence, it’s a comparison of $50,000 to $8,000 for the first two years of a bachelor’s degree. That’s an enormous difference when thinking about the potential debt facing a college graduate. The gap grows wider when compared to private colleges or technical schools.
As an institution, we are committed to creating an environment where a student can earn a college education and enter the workforce with minimal debt. Two ways that we assist students are through Lake Land College Foundation scholarships and the Presidential Scholarship. All high school students have the opportunity to qualify for the Presidential Scholarship by graduating in the top 15 percent of their class or earning a 1240 on the SAT or 26 on the ACT. Each year, the Lake Land College Foundation awards nearly $400,000 in scholarships to deserving students. I encourage all who will be attending Lake Land this fall to complete the application by February 1 at 5 p.m. online at lakelandcollege.edu/scholarships/.
While we often hear requests from legislators and commitments from university presidents to minimize the cost of higher education, community colleges in Illinois have been living up to that commitment for more than 50 years. And, students are taking note. In Illinois, two-thirds of the undergraduate students enrolled in public higher education are attending community colleges. In our own Lake Land College district, community college is the top choice among high school graduates with more than 50 percent of the college-bound class of 2017 starting the fall semester as Lakers.
The higher education landscape continues to evolve with emerging technologies and heightened demands for workforce training. Community colleges are agents of change that readily adapt to the evolving needs of the communities we serve, yet one area we will hold steadfast is in our pledge to maintain opportunities for a quality, affordable college education.