A Publication of WTVP

We recently heard a well-known media expert emphasize that most public entities don't do a good job of telling their stories. It got us thinking at ICC; what really is our story?

Three things I'd say about our college are:

Why these three things? My first point deals directly with why the state decided to endorse a community college system 40 years ago. In the 1960s, Illinois, like so many other states, recognized the key to developing a prosperous economy was to have a well-educated workforce. In our district, ICC has done a great job. The percentage of people with associate degrees in the tri-county area is higher than the state and national averages, according to Census Bureau data. As an open access college-a school that accepts anyone with a high school diploma or GED-ICC has helped a number of students who had no or limited success in high school realize their dreams. Last December, when we interviewed graduating students, we found inspiring examples of individuals who simply didn't flourish in high school but later in their lives recognized education was extremely important. Rather than being forever shut out from education, they were able to "get back in the game" through their community college.

The second point deals with the fact that community colleges like ICC hire faculty exclusively for their ability and interest in teaching. While research-based schools serve an important focus in generating new information and knowledge, community colleges focus on making sure people learn that new information as well as other skills. We're concerned with keeping classes small, teachers accessible, and offering help and support that are readily available. For example, we provide all of our students with free tutoring services through our reading, math, and writing help labs.

Finally, you can get the skills and knowledge you need to start in a career like manufacturing, nursing, or public safety-or get started on your four-year degree without incurring exorbitant costs. Studies conducted by the College Board showed student borrowing for college increased 137 percent between 1992-1993 and 2002-2003.

Additionally, a study by the National Center for Education Statistics showed about half of the students graduating from bachelor's programs start their careers about $10,000 in debt and that the cost of education will continue to rise faster than inflation. In the 2004-2005 academic year, student tuition alone for private colleges in central Illinois averaged about $13,000; state colleges averaged about $6,000, and ICC was $1,800. Students who need to finance a four-year degree-and study for their first two years at ICC-will save significant amounts of money. And like the four-year schools, students are eligible for financial aid and scholarships.

So what's our story? It's based on our three founding principles: everyone can learn, great teachers make for great education, and college can and should be within every American's reach. IBI