Guest commentary: Parkland enacting exciting changes
By Greg Knott
The fall semester at Parkland College is just a few days from starting. I find this time of year very exciting, with new and returning students coming to Parkland, to learn new skills and knowledge that may help them start a new career, begin their college journey or perhaps take a class for personal interest.
The world of higher education is changing rapidly, especially for community colleges. Parkland is now working with our high school districts to offer dual-credit classes, taught in the high schools. This provides an opportunity for these students to earn dual credit and transfer these credits to another higher education institution they may enroll in after high school graduation.
Parkland has also developed a special relationship with the University of Illinois through the Parkland Pathways program that allows for dual enrollment of classes both at Parkland and on the UI campus. Assuming the student has an appropriate grade point average, in many UI programs they will be automatically accepted as a transfer student.
In Illinois, proposals are being floated to allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees in selected fields, such as the technical trade areas or nursing. This debate is only beginning and needs much more deliberation before being enacted, especially in a time of declining resources.
Nationally, community colleges are being called up to increase their graduation rates and improve student success. Increased accountability of institutional performance has driven the creation of standard performance measures of institutions that will give taxpayers, parents and students a very clear picture of how a particular college compares to other peer colleges.
Parkland was an early adoptee of these goals and standards and is working aggressively to further improve upon the experience for our students, while increasing our accountability to the district residents we serve.
The Parkland campus has also changed. Already the new Parkhill Applied Technology Center is open with facilities that are of unmatched quality in areas such as automotive and collision repair, welding and industrial technology. The Dodds Athletic Center was updated and a new fitness center added that will benefit a nationally recognized kinesiology program. A fine arts facility is under construction that will bring additional space for the visual arts and the very popular community theater productions.
For the first time in nearly 50 years, Parkland will have a true front door. The beautiful new student union will be ready for students when the new semester starts, bringing together areas such as admissions, financial aid and academic advising. Students will also have places to study and engage with each other through students clubs and organization.
Despite these rapid changes, the Parkland mission is constant: "To engage the community in learning." Parkland stands ready to help build the future. We will be here when you need us.
Greg Knott of St. Joseph is member of the Parkland College Board of Trustees.