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April 2024

Celebrating Community College Month

With the arrival of April, it’s once again time to join our peers throughout the nation in celebration of National Community College Month. We are proud to share a common goal of accessible education and community enrichment with so many remarkable institutions throughout our country. We are excited to take this time to celebrate the immeasurable value these colleges offer by enhancing economic opportunity and creating pathways for social mobility throughout their regions.

Community colleges are uniquely positioned to serve the diverse needs of modern students. Whether they plan to transfer to a university or rapidly enter the workforce, community college students can choose from a variety of flexible programs to take the first steps toward achieving their goals. At Lake Land College, our programs range from 8-week certificates to 2-year associate degree tracks, all of which offer a powerful combination of classroom instruction and hands-on experience to ensure student success beyond graduation.

With their flexible programs offered at a fraction of the cost of a university, community colleges present sizable financial savings and empower students to take control of their educational experience. This is particularly vital for the most underserved student populations, such as students who are low-income, first-generation, adult learners or incumbent workers. While the typical costs and demands of a university may restrict access to postsecondary completion to many student groups, community colleges help reduce barriers to completion and open the door to life-changing career pathways. In fact, the average Lake Land student who is eligible for PELL and MAP grants can attend Lake Land College for free, with no out-of-pocket costs, and even put money back into their pocket to assist with other expenses such as childcare, food, transportation or housing. 

This mission of accessible postsecondary education even extends to high school students in many cases through dual credit courses. These partnerships offer a convenient head-start toward college completion and can help instill confidence for students to continue their education beyond high school. In fact, 73% of dual credit students elect to attend college after graduating from high school, setting themselves up for sustainable futures in high-demand career fields. At Lake Land College, we are excited about our strong relationships with the many high schools throughout our district and the opportunities these partnerships present to expand dual credit enrollment moving forward. 

Whether students begin their college journeys as dual credit enrollees, nontraditional adult learners or anything in between, a community college education presents a premium return on investment (ROI). In fact, Illinois community college graduates rapidly recoup their educational expenses with an annual rate of return of approximately 27%. Many also enjoy the advantage of beginning their careers without carrying any student debt. In our case, we are proud to report that just 3.45% of our Lakers took out a loan during the 2022-2023 academic year, ensuring they can stretch their wages further without the weight of student debt.

With these numerous advantages, it’s no wonder why so many students across the nation choose community college as the starting point of their postsecondary journey. In Illinois alone, community colleges account for 65% of all public postsecondary enrollment. On a national level, roughly 35% of all U.S. undergrad students were enrolled in community college in Fall 2021. Collectively, postsecondary students throughout the country earn 2 million associate degrees and career and technical certificates each year, building their skills for sustainable employment and career advancement. As students graduate and grow into our nation’s next leaders and industry professionals, many of them will carry the education and experience of a community college background into these roles.

As you can see, there is ample reason to celebrate the countless accomplishments of our nation’s community colleges. At Lake Land, our belief is that every student should have access to a high-quality education, and we are proud of the work that we are our peers are doing every day to make this mission a reality. I look forward to discussing with you the immeasurable value of community colleges and the role they play in advancing our nation.

For more of my thoughts about a range of innovative topics that impact higher education, our communities and our future, be sure to check out the Laker Advantage Podcast: Insights and Sidebars with Dr. B on Spotify.