COD board candidates suggest ways to increase enrollment
Candidates for the College of DuPage board of trustees have varying ideas on how to address falling enrollment, including appealing to nontraditional students and expanding skilled trades training.
Four hopefuls -- Dan Bailey, Annette Corrigan, Maureen Dunne and Marc Incrocci -- are pursuing two seats on the Glen Ellyn-based community college's board in the April 2 election. They say one of the top issues is the school's enrollment.
There are a total of 26,026 full- and part-time students enrolled at COD, officials said. In comparison, there were 29,108 students attending the school in spring 2015.
"There are a number of challenges facing the college," said Dunne, a Naperville resident who advises technology startups. "One, obviously, is the declining enrollment."
Dunne said the school already is working to improve its STEM -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- programs to help attract more students.
"I think it's important that the students at the college are being prepared for jobs that will exist five, 10 years from now," Dunne said during a recent endorsement session. "So I think that it's smart to focus on the STEM programing."
She said the programs need to be designed to provide students with the skills employers need. In addition, she said, there are opportunities for COD to offer more online classes.
Meanwhile, Incrocci said COD could boost enrollment by providing training for people who want to learn a trade.
Incrocci, who is the director of organizational development at Black Horse Carriers, says he knows tool and die manufacturers who are having a hard time finding qualified workers.
"The last three decades we told people you need a four-year degree or you can't make a living," the Darien resident said. "That's just not true. But we took the trades out of the high schools."
Incrocci says COD has the facilities to work with local employers to develop training programs to allow students to pursue careers in the skilled trades.
"Then people that don't want to go to a four-year school -- or they're not ready for a four-year school -- can have a career," he said.
The programs also could benefit adults who want a career change, Incrocci said.
Bailey said he believes COD will need to increase enrollment to keep tuition costs down.
The Wheaton resident said the school must do a better job of marketing what it already offers. In addition, he said it should to reach out to nontraditional students.
Bailey, who is a retired registered nurse and railroad engineer, said he liked Incrocci's suggestion about skilled trades training. But he said unions should be included.
Corrigan said part of the reason enrollment is falling at COD is because colleges in other states are doing a good job of attracting students from Illinois.
"They are pulling our students out of our community," said Corrigan, who is an attorney from Wheaton. She said innovative ideas are needed to return COD's enrollment to where it was.
Both Corrigan and Dunne said the school should offer more programs for students with developmental disabilities.
"There's a segment of population in DuPage County with developmental disabilities that did not have access to higher education," said Corrigan, adding that a program was started at COD about a year and half ago.