Community Colleges Offer Access to Lifelong Learning
Throughout America the month of April is proclaimed Community College Month. Traditionally this month has become a time to reflect on the philosophy and history of the community colleges and a time to look into the future of these "uniquely American" institutions of higher education.
I am proud to be a community college graduate and equally proud to have a wonderful 30 year career as a community college educator. Also I am excited and pleased to be joining Kaskaskia College. KC is a dynamic institution with a very supportive board of trustees and a superb faculty and staff.
The initial impetus to the massive expansion of the community colleges over the past 50 years was due to the recommendations of the Truman Commission in 1947 to create a system of public community colleges that would provide services to roughly half of the adult population.
The action of the Truman Commission followed the federal government passing the GI Bill of Rights, which provided educational grants to veterans returning from World War II. Literally millions of these veterans enrolled in educational institutions under this program.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s new enrollments continued to surge with the baby boom generation entering college. It was during this period when, on average, one new two year college was opened each week. Today there are more than 1,200 two year colleges in the United States enrolling approximately 45 percent of the nation's undergraduates and 51 percent of all first time entering students. On an annual basis the community colleges now enroll approximately 6 million noncredit students.
Whereas the philosophy of four year colleges and universities was based on European educational models, community colleges were formed to serve a very different philosophy. As a result, community colleges became known as, a new "American Model" of higher education. Ten distinguishing characteristics of the community college life:
Subsequently Kaskaskia College District 500 was created, which included all of Marion and Clinton counties, most of Washington County and part of Jefferson County. The district has since been expanded to include most of Bond County, much of Fayette County, and parts of St. Clair, Madison and Monroe counties. (Of importance, Kaskaskia College was the first Class I college to be established under provisions of the 1965 act.)
reaches out to people of all ages and different levels of preparedness.
maintains tuition at affordable levels and are cost efficient institutions.
organizes as locally controlled and governed institutions.
supports a funding partnership between local taxpayers and state government.
provides accessible programs at times and places convenient to the learners.
maintains an open door policy with quality technical and academic programs.
supports work force training, economic development, and social and cultural activities.
provides for comprehensive student life, intervention and student services functions.
ensures small class sizes, personalized instruction, and supports lifelong learning.
creates an environment that is student centered and learning oriented.
Kaskaskia College was initially established in 1940 as Centralia Junior College, an extension of the Centralia High School District. In 1965 the Illinois Public Junior College Act was passed and signed into law, which provided for the establishment of junior college districts in Illinois by a direct vote of the people.
Kaskaskia College is committed to providing meaningful lifelong learning opportunities and experiences for citizens of the district that include a comprehensive series of skill and knowledge based educational programs as well as community services of a cultural, recreational, and professional nature.
B The college is a highly accountable institution with a proud and dedicated faculty, staff and board of trustees. To fulfill its mission the college offers 57 certificate and degree programs that prepare students for university transfer and for immediate employment or job skill upgrades through short term training.
In addition, three certificate programs are offered in adult basic education and English as a second language. A wide variety of activities for student development and a host of appropriate student services support the educational programs of the college. The library and media center also provide programs and services to support the learning of the community.
As we celebrate Community College Month we are reminded of our heritage and the futuristic vision of the early leaders of the community college. It was their vision and hard work that the development and growth of the community college occurred. Today the community college is a major segment of higher education serving millions of people with quality programs and services.