Guest Commentary

My View: JWCC committed to its mission to enrich lives through learning

Mike Elbe is president of John Wood Community College
MICHAEL L. ELBE, John Wood Community College president
Posted: Apr. 14, 2019 12:01 am

When Ronald Reagan declared April as Community College month in 1986, John Wood Community College was in its adolescence -- just 12 years old.

Now celebrating our 45th year, we have transformed into a community partner and Trail Blazer in education. John Wood was ranked by SR Education Group as the best online community college in Illinois, rated in the top 10% of the nation's community colleges based on student success indicators by CNN/Money, and is one of a handful community colleges in the state to show enrollment growth in the past five years.

This transformation didn't happen by chance. Such positive outcomes took years of dedicated people and planning, all focused on growth and continuous improvement, serving our communities and facilitating student success.

The college's growth and success also is a result of an unwavering commitment to our mission to enrich lives through learning. That means making education accessible to ensure that everyone can learn, apply knowledge and make their lives and communities better in the process.

Our mission is alive and well, and I would like to offer some thoughts on what that looks like in today's world.

Today's community colleges:

Provide an affordable path to a bachelor's degree: JWCC offers a quality foundation for the first two years of college that conveniently transfers to four-year colleges and universities. Approximately 75% of JWCC students choose this path, many complete their studies without debt, and our graduates thrive at local universities and institutions across the country.

Prepare students for success: Last year, JWCC awarded 600 degrees and certificates to students prepared to succeed. Many John Wood career and technical students are recruited by employers before graduation, and our transfer students, like their peers at community colleges across the country, perform at high levels at their chosen universities. A 2019 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation report found that students who begin at community colleges perform as well as or better than their peers who enter four-year universities immediately after high school.

Support the talent pipeline for the local workforce: By listening to industry advisory councils, John Wood delivers relevant courses and experiences to prepare graduates to enter key workforce sectors in our communities -- health care, manufacturing, agriculture and transportation.

Serve businesses through customized training: Businesses are turning to John Wood to deliver national experts to provide on-site, customized training to build employee skills and modernize operations. JWCC's Workforce Development Center annually trains an average of 500 employees for tri-state business and industry.

Build partnerships: The power of partnerships will only grow as education evolves, technology advances and the global marketplace becomes more competitive. John Wood will continue to seek partnerships to creatively deliver educational solutions for the challenges of the future.

Champion lifelong learning and inclusion: On any given day, students of every age and background find their place to learn and grow at John Wood. Youths take summer classes to explore a future career, retirees access the latest technology, people with disabilities discover their unique contributions to society, and new citizens learn English.

While we continue to have work to do, John Wood Community College has come a long way in 45 years, and we look forward to serving our communities and living our mission for many years to come. We are proud to be your "community" college.