College of DuPage starts new year with new certificate programs and partnerships

This past spring, when College of DuPage celebrated its first in-person commencement since 2019, it was difficult to imagine that our graduates had spent most of their time studying remotely.

In fact, that commencement ceremony may have been the first on-campus event they attended.

As I look ahead to the start of the fall semester on Aug. 22, students once again will navigate our hallways to find their classes and start the next chapters in their lives.

But this beginning will be different. Because of COVID, we simply cannot return to business as usual. We must understand the pandemic's impact as we determine how to best serve our students.

Many of them faced enormous challenges, from job loss to increased family obligations. Then, when the job market opened up, companies struggled to find qualified employees while our communities continued turning to us for a skilled workforce that fuels economic stability and growth.

All of this happened at a time when college enrollment across the nation generally declined. Some students took gap years while others were concerned about the rising costs associated with college. Several large employees, including Apple and IBM, stopped requiring college degrees as they filled open positions.

This has led to a discussion about the value of a higher education credential, which greatly troubles me.

Last fall, a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce made headlines when it showed that 16% of high school graduates earned more than half of the workers with bachelor's degrees.

Other key findings of the report, indicating that a person's level of education determines economic prospects and that most people who attend college earn more than people without any college, did not receive comparable attention. This has been true for years and continues to be the case.

As the world emerges from the pandemic, my advice to any prospective student is to get ready for your future now. College of DuPage can help you get a marketable skill, and we are responding to your needs.

If you are unsure about pursuing a degree, consider a short-term certificate program in a field with a strong demand for skilled workers. This includes computer programming, finance, health care, hospitality, management, manufacturing and marketing. Several of our certificates are stackable, meaning that a second or third credential can be added to the original one. This expands a student's skills set and provides the foundation for a future associate degree.

If you are concerned about costs, College of DuPage is still an affordable option when compared with four-year institutions and we offer payment plans for students. We also have multiple agreements that provide seamless transfer toward bachelor's degrees.

Moreover, graduating from a community college can lead to scholarships and additional funding opportunities.

If you are hesitant about returning to in-person learning, concerned about the cost of gas or want flexibility to accommodate work and other obligations, COD provides a variety of learning formats in addition to meeting in person.

Zoe Ericson-Staton, a nursing student at College of DuPage, explores the new augmented reality/virtual reality classroom in a simulation exercise. Courtesy of Press Photography Network/Special to College of DuPage

These alternatives include hybrid, virtual classroom meetings (VCMs) and traditional internet courses. Hybrid courses combine in-class and remote work. VCMs meet online but in real time at specific times and dates. Finally, traditional internet courses are completely online and follow timelines prescribed by the instructor.

The college also added several new certificate programs that meet industry needs for skilled workers in growing fields. These include the Internet of Things (IoT) Proficiency Certificate, for students interested in learning about the fast-growing field of programming and managing internet-enabled smart devices.

Also, we offer the Data Analytics Certificate, which prepares students for entry-level data analysis, setup and usage of business intelligence and data analysis solutions.

COD's Digital and Social Media Marketing Certificate provides a foundation to develop a digital marketing strategy. As yet another example, our Python Language Proficiency Certificate helps students learn and use of the world's most popular programming language.

The college continues to pursue key partnerships to help with workforce development. COD is now an education partner for Amazon's Career Choice program, providing Amazon's hourly employees access to its seven associate degrees and more than 170 career and technical certificate programs.

Higher education will always be valuable, and College of DuPage will continually adapt to what our students and communities need. Now is the time to take advantage of all that we offer to help you achieve your goals.

• Brian Caputo is president of College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.

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