Looking out his office early on a Friday evening, College of DuPage’s vice president of student affairs was struck by an unusual sight.
At a time when one might expect to see only janitorial crews roaming the hallways, COD’s Earl Dowling looked out his office and saw students nesting outside his door.
“They have ear buds in, but they are somehow communicating with each other. They are very comfortable here,” Dowling said. “It is part of the environment we create. We nurture.”
Dowling feels that is part of the reason COD has seen a record spring enrollment and applications for next fall are up 16 percent over last year.
He does not attribute the application spike or the nearly 30,000 pupils currently enrolled at the school to President Barack Obama’s recent proposal for free community college tuition for some students, but he admits that the spotlight placed on community colleges by the announcement hasn’t hurt any two-year schools.
“Our spike is a result of parent initiatives. Most of our families know the value of community college education,” Dowling said.
He said recent media coverage on research showing that graduates with associate degrees are earning more than individuals with bachelor’s degrees is part of the reason that more students are turning to community colleges.
“Also, more and more families are having that kitchen-table conversation,” Dowling said. “Students are asking themselves, ‘Do I pay $44,000 as a freshman at a university and take freshman English and freshman math or do I go to COD and for $4,000 take freshman English and freshman math.”
Dowling noted that more and more four-year colleges and universities are reaching out to community colleges to create programs where students start at community college and finish at a four-year school.
Community colleges are transforming communities through empowering citizens, according to Michael Mastroianni, president of Rock Valley College in Rockford.
“This is our community, and while we are proud to see all of our improvements, more must be done, and will be done. Its citizens, and future citizens, need us,” Mastroianni said. “They need Rock Valley College.
“At Rock Valley College, we challenge, support and inspire students to provide themselves with the education, skills and positions to take a stand, and to be bold in everything they do.”
COD, meanwhile, touts its relationship with the University of Illinois for engineering students. Triton College has established a similar arrangement with Roosevelt University.
“We are appreciative to collaborate with Roosevelt University to provide our students an opportunity to earn in four years quality, accessible and affordable associate and bachelor’s degrees close to home,” said Doug Olson, vice president of academic and student affairs at Triton.
The agreement paves the way for Triton students to get a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from Roosevelt in four years.
“Our business students will greatly benefit from the degree completion agreements, while the Dual Degree program supports all students on campus across all curriculums,” said William Griffin, chair of Triton’s School of Business. “This is a watershed for Triton that is creating new opportunities for our students.”