Washington Monthly: Oakton No. 1 in Illinois, 17th in U.S. for adult learners

(Sept. 7, 2017) Oakton Community College was ranked the best community college in Illinois for adult learners for the second-straight year, ranking No. 17 in the nation on Washington Monthly’s list of the best two-year colleges for adult learners.

According to Washington Monthly, nearly half of all students attending American colleges and universities are adults, aged 25 or older. The average age of Oakton students is 26, and 36 percent of Oakton students are at least 25 years of age.

“As the community’s college, Oakton provides access to quality education throughout a lifetime,” Oakton President Joianne L. Smith says. “Adult students benefit from Oakton’s flexible programs delivered online and during convenient times and locations, allowing them to work toward a credential while they build a career at the same time. The valuable education they receive for a relatively small investment also allows them to dramatically increase their earning potential and avoid crushing student loan debt.”

Seven metrics from the College Scorecard, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and College Board were utilized to rank the community colleges according to the latest available data (2015-16):

  • Ease of transfer/enrollment
  • Flexibility of programs
  • Services available for adult students
  • The percent of adult students (age 25+) at the college
  • Mean earnings of adult students 10 years after entering college
  • Loan repayment rates of adult students five years after entering repayment
  • Tuition and fees for in-district students

A 2014 report by the Northern Illinois University Center (NIU) for Governmental Studies found that a 25-year-old Oakton graduate can expect a total lifetime earnings gain of more than $724,000, a 56 percent increase over the total lifetime earnings of someone not completing a community college program. The annual rate of return on the investment in an Oakton degree is approximately 23 percent. Further, the average student completing an Oakton education in fiscal year 2011 saw an increase of more than $4,200 in earnings over pre-enrollment wages.

With an enrollment of approximately 8,500 credit students, Oakton provides a wealth of educational options in the heart of Chicago’s northern suburbs. The college offers more than 2,500 courses each term, and students may earn an associate degree or certificate from 80 areas of study, ranging from health careers, science and technology to business and liberal arts. In addition to courses offered at Oakton’s Des Plaines and Skokie campuses, extensive distance-learning options include more than 90 online courses each year.

Oakton Vice President for Academic Affairs Ileo Lott adds, “An Oakton education empowers and transforms our students, allowing them to think critically, solve problems and to be ethical global citizens. We are pleased to be recognized for the second-straight year as among the best colleges for adult learners, and I believe that’s because a focus on students is at the core of our values.”

Oakton collaborates with Maine, Niles, Northfield (the Glenbrooks) and Evanston Township high schools to form the Alliance for Lifelong Learning, and classes are taught at locations throughout the district. Continuing education programs offer adult students a way to stay current or reinvigorate their careers with a vast selection of special interest topics and hands-on experiences that include business, career training and certification, computer courses and more taught on campus or online. Continuing education is also available for health care professionals, including social workers, certified counselors, marriage and family therapists, registered nurses, addiction counselors, nursing home administrators, speech and language pathologists, audiologists and dietitians. Oakton’s Emeritus Program offers a variety of credit and non-credit classes geared to those 55 years of age and older.

“Many of our lifelong learning courses serve as a bridge to credit courses and allow adult learners to earn while they learn,” said Oakton Associate Vice President of Continuing Education, Training and Workforce Development Colette Hands. “These opportunities, including ESL and GED programs, get students started toward a better life, and Oakton provides resources for them to continue and succeed.”