MCC’s Reaction to Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon’s Report on Community Colleges

A press release from McHenry County College in response to Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon’s report after visiting all such institutions.  The story  her visit to MCC is here.


Shiela Simon

 [Jan. 24, 2012.Crystal Lake, IL] According to a report issued on January 19, 2012 by Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon to Gov. Pat Quinn and the General Assembly, community colleges have an immediate opportunity to better prepare future employees and close a skills gap by focusing on completion and bringing in the right programs that meet—and anticipate—workforce needs.

As a member of the Illinois Complete College America team, Simon’s goal is to increase the number of state residents who have relevant credentials to 60 percent by 2025.

As indicated in the report, just under 20 percent of all first-time, full-time students enrolled in Illinois community colleges graduate with an associate’s degree within the first three years of enrolling.

McHenry County College’s percentage is already higher than average, awarding associate’s degrees or certificates to 24% of students in three years or less based on 2009-10 graduation rate data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

College officials expect MCC’s completion rates to rise even higher through additional completion efforts and enhanced workforce partnerships.

Vicky Smith

“I am pleased with MCC’s progress toward completing students,” said President Vicky Smith.

“We have increased the number of certificates granted by 69% and the number of associate’s degrees by 43% in the past five years; much of this growth has been seen in our career programs, which reflects our efforts toward preparing a future workforce with the applicable skills they need and employers want.”

In Simon’s report, Illinois Community Colleges: Focus on the Finish, she indicates four key steps that community colleges must take to help their students complete:Improve college readiness – prepare students when they are in high school

  1. Improve college readiness – prepare students when they are in high school
  2. Provide comprehensive support services
  3. Create smooth transfers between high school, community college and four-year college
  4. Increase transparency

Each of these steps align with much of the data shared with Simon during her visit to MCC on June 27, 2011, at which time Smith reinforced the College’s commitment to completion, supported by a wealth of initiatives already in place. “MCC has created a climate of student success, both in and outside of the classroom. We are truly focused on helping our students persist and complete a credential, degree or certificate so they can successfully transfer or transition to the workforce.”

Improving College and Career Readiness

The foundation for completion begins at the high school level with MCC’s Dual Credit program. The College has dramatically increased its dual-credit programs from 30 to over 300 students over the past two years. “These programs have grown as a result of strong partnerships with area high schools, and they allow students to earn college credit while in high school—ultimately preparing them to transition more successfully to college-level coursework,” Smith said.

MCC is promoting career clusters and Programs of Study (POS), beginning in eighth grade when students take the ACT EXPLORE test. Many high school students do not believe that high school is relevant or provides a pathway to their dreams. Students who are put on a career pathway show greater persistence and score higher on proficiency tests.

Providing Comprehensive Support Services

The Sage Learning Center has expanded its services to include study skills workshops, Supplemental Instruction and tutoring in additional subjects than those typically offered.  The Sage Learning Center supplements what is covered in certain high enrollment, low success rate classes. We served students providing over 16,000 visits this past year. The success rate of students who voluntarily took advantage of this service was 24% higher than the general student population.

MCC has revised New-Student Orientation to give students the necessary information they will need to be successful and complete their certificate, degree or intent at the College. Student leaders have been incorporated into the program; these students accompany new students throughout their orientation, acting as a guide and resource for any questions they may have. These student leaders keep in touch with new students throughout their first year to make sure they are successful.

New-Student Convocation is the official welcoming ceremony of new students to the College community by the Board, president, administration, faculty and staff. Fall 2011 marked the first new-student convocation at the College. The goal of this event is to convey to students the importance of their educational endeavor and the commitment of MCC to support them in the achievement of this goal, both inside and outside the classroom. By engaging these students as early as possible in their time at MCC, it increases their likelihood of being successful in College and completion.

Creating Smooth Transfers

MCC faculty work steadily with colleagues from in-district high schools to better align curriculum in math and English. This effort resulted from data on high school graduates from 2006-2009 that revealed a high number of graduates from each school were required to take developmental math/English at MCC. The College is working on development of a Summer “Bridge” Program, which will include team teaching with both high school and college instructors to strengthen partnerships and work on curriculum alignment. In addition, MCC team members meet monthly with Directors of Guidance from all area high schools to address MCC-related topics.

In 2011, the AAS in Nursing program received 77 applications for the 27 seats available. The same was true in the previous year. Last year’s graduating class (25 students) all passed the NCLEX licensing exam and obtained jobs as nurses. This is an indication that the College has not met the demand for RNs in the district.

MCC has developed a Nursing Career Bridge Program for area residents who have not typically had success in the education system. The career path begins with basic certified nursing assistant training, advances individuals from Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) to either Registered Nurse (RN) or Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) programs. Bridge programming in health care is part of a carefully planned progression of educational steps leading to stackable certificates and further education already in progress at MCC.

MCC has taken a strategic approach to transitioning adult education students into credential programs and/or the workforce. This population typically has monumental barriers to college enrollment, let alone completion. However, through transition activities and contextualized learning opportunities in math and English, MCC is helping these adult learners gain basic skills, in conjunction with technical training:

  • LPN-RN Bridge: This course is designated to assist a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) transition into the role of the Registered Nurse (RN). Areas of study include the role of the associate’s degree nurse and the application of the core components of nursing practice to clients experiencing the dysfunctional health patterns.
  • ESL-CNA Bridge: There is a need in our county for bilingual CNA’s, but low success rate historically with ESL learners in CNA. Therefore, MCC developed a CNA Bridge to prepare ESL students for success in CNA classes. Two cohorts were offered, one in Fall 2010 and one in Spring 2011.
    • 92.5% (37 out of 40 students) successfully completed CNA certificate. An ESL-Automotive Bridge program began in Fall 2011 and will transition adult education students to an automotive credit program.
  •  The College Experience (MCC 101) Cohort: This cohort has been specifically designed for adult education students who require specific focus and tools for college success.

Increasing Transparency

In Simon’s report, it is recommended that community colleges report student success rates, also a provision of the Higher Education Opportunity Act. McHenry County College has been publishing this information for several years, which can be found at, along with important consumer information about the College, its programs and services.

Smith cited that the completion effort is more complex in a community college environment. Community college students often balance a variety of responsibilities, sometimes combined with personal obligations and financial limitations.

That may explain why enrollment in MCC’s online courses increased by 56% between 2006-2011. Or why enrollment over the past five years for the 25-34 age group has increased by 28%. This data supports MCC’s broader mission–to create an opportunity of higher learning for all individuals in the county, extending beyond traditional students and addressing the needs of those adult learners who seek new skills or stackable careers.

“It can be challenging for some of our students to finish, so we must help each person with their completion based on their individual needs, as well as encourage more district residents to come to MCC to take programs that will help enhance their own job outlook. These are the actions that define McHenry County College as a true community of learners,” stated Smith.

To view the full report from Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, visit


MCC’s Reaction to Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon’s Report on Community Colleges — 3 Comments

  1. There should be a tab on the MCC home page for “Remedial Classes” that would include detailed information on this important topic including statistics in reading and math from the feeder high schools in McHenry County, along with the names and costs of remedial level courses at MCC.

    Type “remedial” in the MCC search bar and try to hunt and peck for meaningful information.

    A main reason students require remedial level classes in college is low expectations throughout the K-12 system beginning in elementary school, not high school.

    There are many causes of low expectations.

    Parents don’t have the information until the ACT Explore in 8th Grade to know how well their child is tracking for college and career readiness.

    y 8th grade the students K-12 education is 2/3 over.

    That’s too late, the parents need that information earlier in the process.

    eachers have not been paid for performance but for years of service and earning college credits and degrees.

    Teachers get paid the same no matter how well the child performs.

    Teachers themselves usually know what teachers are not performing well.

    Kids start getting tested in ISAT’s in 3rd grade, but the score to “meet expectations” in ISAT has been lowered several times ISBE to counteract the increasing NCLB standards; to help school districts meet the increasing NCLB benchmarks.


    If your child is at the low end of “meets expectations” there should be CONCERN by Administrators and Teachers expressed to Parents and Students and a PLAN in IMPROVE.

    How often do you see that??

    Of course, there are other reasons students require remedial level classes.

    The student may not be motivated, may need tutoring but can’t afford it, may be so busy working they don’t have enough time to study, may have personal or family problems distracting them, etc.

  2. I STRONGLY recommend that ordinary taxpayers take a stroll down the halls of the so-called “College” …….. you’ll see, at least from the bulletin boards if not directly from the “students,” just what types of degeneracies you’re financing through your tax extotions!

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