JOLIET – Joliet Junior College Interim President Judy Mitchell gave her first State of the College address Thursday that summarized the immense changes JJC has undergone in the past several years.
Amid the growing number of facilities, new partnerships, shifting student demographics and state funding challenges, JJC embarked on creating a new strategic plan to meet these changes.
At her inaugural address, Mitchell read the new vision statement – that JJC will be the first choice for students, employers and employees and others – and asked attendees to help meet that goal.
“This is all of us together,” Mitchell said to a crowd of local leaders and JJC staff. “Each of you here today can help us achieve and realize our vision, our mission and ourselves for our community.”
The college’s footprint has grown considerably since 2008 with the completion of six new buildings, and last year saw the groundbreaking of the JJC Events Center and Romeoville campus expansion. The Morris Education Center also will be moving into a new location.
In January, the college plans for the grand opening of the City Center Campus in downtown Joliet, Mitchell said.
The student body at JJC has changed as well, with 25 percent consisting of Hispanic students.
Mitchell said that after the fall semester, JJC will reaffirm its Hispanic student population count and seek approval from the U.S. Department of Education to designate the college as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.
“Appreciating that we do have a changing student body, the college has continued to expand our student support services through our Multicultural Student Affairs office and International Students Services office,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell also touted how JJC has remained affordable and accessible through low tuition rates and the Strategic Enrollment Plan.
She said both have led to increasing the number of graduates, as well as the “persistence rate,” which is students returning from the fall to spring semester.
One of the main challenges for JJC is unstable state funding. After a yearlong state budget impasse, lawmakers were able to pass a stopgap budget this summer.
But in the face of potential funding reductions, the college has restricted out-of-state travel, closed its Small Business Development Center, suspended capital improvement projects and held off on filling vacant positions.
Mitchell said JJC has created a revenue-generating committee to come up with new ways to offset state funding reductions.
Mitchell praised the JJC Foundation, the college’s fundraising arm, which awards nearly $800,000 in scholarships each year.
She also commended the college’s past partnerships with businesses such as Citgo, Amazon and TransCanada that have benefited various initiatives, such as JJC’s Veterans Resource Center.
One collaboration Mitchell highlighted involved JJC, employers, lawmakers, local leaders and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Christopher Lu at a roundtable discussion August 2015.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of our partnerships,” she said.
Board Chairman Robert Wunderlich, who has been a JJC trustee for about 40 years, said at the address that JJC has remained a key resource for generation of students, local business and organizations.
“While so many things have changed – people, locations and numbers of students, etc. – what has remained the same is our dedication to be your first choice,” he said.