When I arrived at Kishwaukee College in January of 2016, we faced a number of challenges, including funding from the state budget impasse, declining enrollments since 2012, and strained management-labor relations from a near faculty union strike and a new adjunct instructor collective bargaining unit.
Under the guidance of the College Board of Trustees, we have worked together through our institutional challenges. Here are some of our highlights:
Focus on local athletes: 64 percent of the Kish College athletes are graduates from local high schools, well on our way to our 75 percent goal.
Student success: The college graduation rate for our students increased from 19 percent to 33 percent over the last five years.
Partnerships with universities: 52 transfer guides are now on the college’s website, showing students how their credits transfer from Kish to other colleges. Of these, 25 of them show how Kish credits transfer to NIU majors, and 27 guides show transfer to nine other Illinois Universities.
Partnerships with area high schools: 606 high school students are currently enrolled in dual credit at Kish College, representing approximately 25 percent of the high school juniors and seniors in the Kishwaukee College district. Many students can earn at least a year of college credit while still in high school.
Partnerships with businesses and the community: An increase in short-term training programs, continuing education, and contract training with businesses demonstrates the college’s commitment to life-long learning and meeting the needs of local employers.
Fiscal stability: Kish College has passed a balanced budget each year and has maintained a 25 percent reserve balance since 2017.
Collaborative college climate: In 2017 the college and faculty union signed a five year contract. The staff and student climate surveys administered in the last two years have demonstrated the highest satisfaction ratings in the college’s history of the surveys.
Quality and continuous improvement: A requirement of all institutions of higher education is accreditation. During the process in 2013, the college was required to submit three monitoring (improvement) reports. There were no monitoring reports required in the current 2019 cycle, with a significant (83 percent) increase in the overall ratings of the college report.
Change is hard. Working through our challenges at Kish has been anything but easy.
While some employees have retired or professionally moved on, the college has only experienced an average 10 percent turnover rate the last two and a half years. According to national Human Resources data, a 10 percent turnover is indicative of a healthy organization.
The culture of Kishwaukee College has changed, as the number of students seeking higher education has diminished, and accountability for student tuition and tax dollars has increased. At Kish, our focus is student success, and while the rate of change may slow, it will never end. If we are going to meet the needs of our communities and stakeholders, we will need to continue to analyze or outcomes, study best practices, and adapt to what lies ahead.
Dr. Laurie Borowicz is the President of Kishwaukee College