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Local Column

Borowicz: Kish College celebrating 50 years, looking to the future

Laurie Borowicz is the president of Kishwaukee College in Malta.
Laurie Borowicz is the president of Kishwaukee College in Malta.

This is a great year for Kishwaukee College, as we celebrate being an integral part of the community since 1968.

The college campus looks very different than it did 50 years ago. Over the years, the taxpayers have supported the growth and expansion of campus spaces to best serve the students. Our learners are fortunate to have the quality facilities and technology available at Kish.

Enrollments also are different than in 1968. There were 994 students who attended the first year the campus was open, compared with about 5,750 students who will attend classes this year.

When community colleges first opened their doors in Illinois, funding was to be supplied in equal amounts from three sources – tuition, local property taxes and state aid. Over the years, less state funding has come into the colleges. The result at Kish is that more than 50 percent of the budget comes from student tuition. Enrollments become that much more important as they generate the revenue needed to ensure the college is able to offer a quality education to all students.

Kishwaukee College is like most other colleges in Illinois, and indeed across the nation, with declining enrollment. According to data from the National Student Clearinghouse, over a five-year period from 2011 to 2016, enrollments in higher education in the U.S. dropped by 2.4 million students. Much of this decline is attributed to changing demographics in our country.

In Illinois, it is worse. Among recent Illinois high school graduates attending four-year institutions, 46 percent enrolled in out-of-state schools in 2016, compared with 29 percent in 2002, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Illinois has the second-highest out-migration of college-bound students. New Jersey is the only state that loses more students than Illinois.

The long-term effect of the net out-migration is devastating for all of us. Studies from the Illinois Board of Higher Education found that, of Illinois residents who study in their home state, about nine out of 10 start careers in Illinois. But about a third of those studying out of state don’t return to Illinois to start their career.

Given these realities, we need to continue to work together as a state and communities to ensure a bright future for our current and future residents. We are hopeful that our leaders in Springfield consider the long-term consequences as they begin planning the next state budget and developing public policy. We need a budget that supports higher education and is approved in a timely manner. Let’s show our students that we want to keep them here in Illinois.

Kishwaukee College has been your community college for the past 50 years, and as we are celebrating our rich history this year, we are looking forward to the next 50 years of providing quality education locally. To learn more about the great things happening at Kish, follow my blog, President’s Perspective with Dr. Laurie Borowicz, at drlaurie.kish.edu.

• Laurie Borowicz is president of Kishwaukee College. She can be reached at 815-825-9333, or by email at lborowicz@kish.edu.

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