Lewis and Clark Community College enters 2018 with a great deal of optimism and momentum based on a series of strategic planning successes that have enhanced operations and programs for the cultural and economic development of District 536, which reaches into parts of seven counties – Calhoun, Greene, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, Morgan and Scott – and is home to more than 220,000 people.
For example, without a great deal of fanfare, the college weathered two consecutive years of severely diminished state funding by reducing total dependency on the state from approximately 33 percent of the budget to only 7.9 percent.
Last month, the college received a third-party audit with zero findings, demonstrating Lewis and Clark’s continued record of fiscal responsibility. Kevin Tepen, of C. J. Schlosser & Company, LLC, praised “the college’s continued positive (financial) track record, excellent internal controls, and reduction of $1.2 million in spending, the lowest spending in five years.”
Efforts to save money during the state’s historic two-year budget impasse included eliminating more than 40 positions through attrition and retirements, while still meeting contractual obligations to all L&C employee groups and maintaining high quality services to the district.
The leadership of the Lewis and Clark Community College Board of Trustees has been essential in positioning the college for continued growth and success, while at the same time lowering our tax levy. In December, in a 6-1 vote, the Board approved the Lewis and Clark 2017 Levy, potentially lowering taxes by an estimated 3.57 percent.
Nationwide, enrollment in higher education has dropped for the sixth straight year with the loss of 224,000 students (97,000 of whom were at community colleges). Despite declining enrollment trends state- and nation-wide, Lewis and Clark has maintained a strong freshman class and higher than average rates when it comes to converting applicants to enrolled students.
This year’s freshman class was an impressive 1,860 students, which is 63 larger than SIUE’s freshman class, larger than Northern Illinois University’s (1,852), and significantly larger than the freshman class sizes at SIU Carbondale (1,319), Western Illinois University (1,206), and Eastern Illinois University (634). In fact, L&C is ranked the 12th largest of 22 higher education institutions in the St. Louis metropolitan area by the St. Louis Business Journal, educating 10,145 credit students and more than 15,000 total students annually.
Lewis and Clark’s success and annual economic impact of $369.4 million continues to be essential to the economic well-being of the region. The college contributes 4.7 percent of the region’s Gross Regional Product (GRP), sending 1,000 graduates per year into the workforce and providing technical and academic training for 6,688 jobs annually.
According to economic modeling company Emsi, Lewis and Clark not only gives students a 19.7 percent annual rate of return on their investment in an L&C education, but also represents a 9.1 percent return on investment for taxpayers annually.
Lewis and Clark is increasingly becoming an expert in defining economic development needs throughout our region. The L&C National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC) contributes to the economic and environmental sustainability of the rivers and watersheds throughout our district. This is essential to agriculture, commerce, manufacturing and a sustainable environment.
The Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities Foundation, University of Illinois Foundation and Lewis and Clark Community College are creating a new tool called the Mannie Jackson Humanities Index (MJHI). The MJHI measures more than 20 demographic, geographic and cultural indicators, including digital maps and ethnographic data. When populated with data, the MJHI assigns a number, which indicates community strengths and weaknesses and barriers to inclusive, thriving, quality of life communities. The MJHI becomes a creative tool for policy makers and administrators to fashion effective, targeted and inclusive humanities-based economic development and cultural solutions.
Through the Hatheway Cultural Center on the college’s Godfrey campus and the N.O. Nelson and Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities campuses in Edwardsville, Lewis and Clark provides cultural programming across the spectrum including speaker series, symposia, community and corporate events, as well as access to aquatic, dance and theater facilities, with more than 200,000 people attending L&C programs annually. One highlight this year was a forum, sponsored by the MJCH Foundation, which featured legendary basketball Hall of Fame legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar focusing on contemporary issues of polarization.
The college currently offers 43 degree and certificate programs, each advised by volunteer community technical experts who serve on one or more of the college’s 24 individual Program Advisory Councils. These career program advisory council members ensure our programs are teaching the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workforce. New programs like Instrumentation and Control Systems grow out of the recommendations of the council and through strategic alignments with companies like Phillips 66 in our district’s manufacturing sector. Graduates of this two-year program can receive starting salaries of $60,000, plus benefits.
Lewis and Clark’s baccalaureate transfer programs remain a major strength and critical part of our mission and comprise 52 percent of our students. It is important to know that the college has secured 65 guaranteed transfer agreements with 28 colleges and universities, assuring students a smooth academic transfer.
In Spring 2018, we will open the new Weber Workforce Center. The 16,000-square foot facility, made possible in large part by a nearly $3.275 million gift from the late Ed Weber, will feature the most advanced welding equipment for instruction, along with simulators and laser technology, enabling the college to expand capacity for Welding Technology – one of Lewis and Clark’s most popular and in-demand programs.
Nursing continues to shine as one of our flagship programs, with 77 graduates annually and a National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate of 86 percent, surpassing the national average for all associate and baccalaureate programs. This continues to demonstrate the high quality of our graduates, who go on to strengthen our community and many others. Based on hospital demands and changes in patient care, Lewis and Clark’s highest legislative priority in 2018 is enacting a community college BSN program at Lewis and Clark and in selected community college locations throughout Illinois.
As president of Lewis and Clark Community College, and on behalf of the Board of Trustees, faculty and administration, I want to express my appreciation for the commitment of nearly 220,000 people in parts of seven counties that comprise District 536.