Despite Challenges, Carl Sandburg College Prepared to Put Students 1st

  Aaron Frey
  Monday, August 10, 2020 12:46 PM
  Campus News

Galesburg, IL

The following is an open letter from Carl Sandburg College President Dr. Seamus Reilly:

There is a lot of talk in the country about the relative value of education, especially in a global pandemic. I can assure you that education has never been more crucial to our district and region.

Our most recent budget narrative at Carl Sandburg College reported that 12 percent of the citizens in our district lack a high school credential and only 24 percent hold a bachelor’s degree, compared to 34 percent in the state. Why are these numbers important? The gaps in educational attainment are responsible for the fact that half of our district households earn less than $25,000 a year. Nearly a third of our district qualifies for free or reduced lunch and 40 percent of single-parent families live in poverty.

The recent book “Deaths of Despair” by Anne Casey and Angus Deaton (the 2015 Nobel Prize winner in economics), illustrates the horrifying fact that lacking a bachelor’s degree is literally a case of life or death. While education alone is not the panacea to heal everything, the economic benefits of attaining increased levels of education last a lifetime.

A recent report published by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that 50 percent of all students taking undergraduate coursework are enrolled in certificate or associate degree programs. Further, when closely linked to the workforce needs in the community, degrees in engineering, health care, agriculture, construction, law enforcement, and business have median earnings of over $40,000 per year.

While there are more students enrolled in certificate and associate degree programs, they are also more diverse and representative of all income levels in the community. It is important to understand that many more people have the potential to earn credentials. Despite a focus on college education at the K-12 level, the numbers have slowed when compared to the dramatic increases in the last half of the 20th century.

Carl Sandburg College is preparing to welcome students for the fall 2020 semester. Without a doubt, this has been a challenging time for our state and country, and this fall semester will be unlike any other semester in our history.

The good news is that thanks to our staff and faculty, we are prepared to support our students as they begin their educational journey, return to school for additional credentials, or take classes for their personal growth.

Our priority is the safety and well-being of everyone, and we have taken steps to ensure to the best of our ability that we can safely offer those courses that by necessity must meet face-to-face. Smaller class sizes, required masking, social distancing, enhanced sanitizing, and one-way systems designed to reduce crowding are some of the ways that we have prepared our campuses and instructional spaces.

Our faculty have worked diligently to enhance courses and develop ways to increase the quality of the learning experience. Our whole college will work to support our students by offering expanded outreach and support and will be available to help with crisis grants, technology needs, and simply to listen.

Before coming on campus everyone must take a screening to indicate if they feel ill or have been in contact with anyone who is ill, to safeguard against an increased risk of community spread. Our classes are offered in a variety of modalities — remote learning, hybrid, and face-to-face — to support the learning and instructional style of our students and faculty.

What we learned from last spring was that while remote learning worked for some very well, for others the lack of technology or strong internet connectivity made it very difficult. Addressing these broadband issues in our district is key to the continued success of our students, but also key for economic development in the region.

A recent Community College Research Center report indicated that students who took between one and 10 hours at a community college had a 4.5 percent higher completion rate compared to students who had taken no hours at a community college.

We think that Carl Sandburg is a great place to start that educational journey. Instead of taking time out, we encourage people to experience quality education in an environment geared to their success. For those thinking about gaining extra credentials or taking classes toward the completion of a bachelor’s degree, our campus community stands ready to welcome and support you.

Press Contact

Aaron Frey