Stressing that two-year schools are important to education, Gov. Pat Quinn announced the state will provide $36 million for College of Lake County's long-planned Lakeshore Campus expansion in downtown Waukegan.
Quinn delivered the news Thursday afternoon to a crowd of CLC officials and local leaders who gathered in a tent near where more than 100,000 square feet of new building construction and renovations of existing space will occur to create a full-service campus. CLC board Chairman Amanda Howland said design work will be followed by construction from 2015 to 2017, with a projected opening in spring 2018.
Plans call for creating an academic focus on health care careers and expanded class offerings at the Lakeshore Campus. CLC intends to build on the campus' current programs, such as dental hygiene, phlebotomy and certified nursing assistant.
Quinn said a quality education should not be available to just elite Illinois residents.
"Community colleges are so important," Quinn said. "We want to make sure that all of our men and women in Illinois, when they come out of high school -- whether it's waiting a little while or whether it's right away -- get an opportunity to get a good education. And the community college is always there, because we believe the community colleges are part of education for everyone."
Total cost of the project is pegged at $48 million. CLC will provide $12 million on top of the state's $36 million that Quinn said will be released.
In 2012, CLC board members hired Chicago-based Legat Architects to design the Lakeshore Campus expansion. More than 100 architecture firms participated in a proposal conference regarding the work.
Officials who spoke at Thursday's gathering also expressed optimism about the revamped Lakeshore Campus boosting downtown Waukegan's economic fortunes. Quinn said the campus should be busy day and night.
"That's good for the community," Quinn said. "It's good for public safety. You have eyes on the street. You have people coming together, going to restaurants after school and so on."
Democratic state Sen. Julie Morrison of Deerfield said the Lakeshore Campus project should transform the city's struggling downtown.
"It's time, it needs it, the community wants it," Morrison said. "It's going to be a huge boon for the whole downtown area and I'm really looking forward to seeing that development."
As of Sept. 9, CLC had a total student enrollment of 17,685 for the fall semester. Officials said more than a third of the pupils are from northeastern Lake County and closer to the Lakeshore Campus than the facilities in Grayslake or Vernon Hills.
Quinn and CLC President Jerry Weber touted how the Lakeshore Campus expansion will be designed to meet the highest energy efficiency standards.