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.