Dr. Stanley Fields, President of Morton College, Cicero, Illinois.
It’s the beginning of another school year, with another class of students, and another year of quality education.
And while this may sound routine or uneventful, as the second-oldest community college in Illinois, we know this is anything but ordinary. In fact, this is an extraordinary time at Morton College.
That’s because each day presents a new opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our students and open doors of opportunity for each of them. That incredible responsibility leaves no room for complacency.
So we continue to invest in our students, staff, facilities and community. Whether that means adding classrooms in a new campus addition, strengthening relationships with area employers and universities, or introducing technology to streamline student communication with professors, we’re committed to continually improving what we do. We’re bettering ourselves so our students can continue to do the same.
Those efforts exemplify the heart of our mission: to enhance the diverse community we serve through high-quality teaching and learning opportunities. It’s important we encourage lifelong learning, no matter when students enroll. It’s up to us to provide them with the tools they need to succeed and continue learning well after they turn their tassels.
Our 7,100 students come to us at all stages of life – some looking to earn an associate’s degree then begin their careers, while others are committed to securing general education requirements before advancing to a four-year university. What they have in common is a drive to improve their future and do so without burying themselves in debt. At $88 per credit hour, Morton College provides the very best education at the very lowest cost of any college in northern Illinois. In fact, we were recently named one of the best community colleges in the state, when considering cost and financing, education and career outcomes.
In an effort to give students a jumpstart on their academic career, we’re expanding our partnership with Morton East and Morton West high schools, by further committing to our concurrent enrollment program.
We also provide learning opportunities for those at other stages of their lives, too. Thousands of community members have taken English as Second Language courses with us. They recognize how much ESL can help their careers – and their family – and value those opportunities. That’s why we make it as convenient for them as possible, conducting classes on campus, at neighborhood centers and even local workplaces.
Nearly 2,000 more area residents have taken adult education courses at Morton College and we’ve seen the number of graduates grow. In 2009, we honored 22 graduates. This year, we recognized 56. Even as the state funding crisis resulted in a loss of funds for that program, our board dedicated itself to identifying resources to keep it alive for our community. Continuing our efforts to create lifelong learners, once those students have earned their High School Equivalency Certificate, they’re eligible for up to two years of free tuition through our Bridge program.
We also recognize the challenges some students face in pursuing a degree, which is why we’ve invested in a full-day pre-school on campus. Offering this service at no charge, we know how much this can help parents, while also ensuring our community’s youngest learners have access to an early education.
Beyond that, this year, we started two unique programs aimed at unique learners. Our STEM summer camp attracted elementary-aged students to learn more about science, technology and math and was popular enough to return next year. We also introduced a summer program for young adults with special needs, providing recreational opportunities that teaches them the importance of fitness and health.
We’re doing all of this on a totally wireless campus, named the 4th safest in the nation in 2015. We’re doing that while expanding our study abroad programs and enhancing our nationally-recognized nursing program. We’ve also taken steps to ensure that when students enroll, they’re assigned an academic advisor who can support them in their educational journey. We’re also making plans to open a new Student Success Center, where they can further engage with advisors, tutors and counselors.
As we do more to ensure our students are engaged on campus, we know it’s just as important to ensure they’re involved in our community. Our Morton Ambassadors Program organizes countless volunteer opportunities and has a strong presence at charity events. We’re also the first higher education institution to participate in the Illinois Latino Policy Forum Leadership Academy, where students make relationships and develop skills to serve as tomorrow’s leaders.
All of this is done to guarantee our students enjoy a quality, comprehensive and worthwhile educational experience that prepares them for the next step in their lives. We want them to be proud to wear orange and blue and reflect on their years here as the time when they built a foundation for lifelong success.
As you can see, it’s not just another day. It’s a new day, full of new possibilities for everyone in the Morton College family, at every stage of learning. We welcome you to join us.