Community colleges offer a wide variety of courses and programs that help students learn new skills, earn degrees and certificates, and enter the workforce or transfer on to a four-year institution. Traditionally, this work has been supported through state and local support and increasingly, tuition. The pursuit of grants provides colleges with a way to increase their impact on the local economy through immediate and long-term benefits as even more community members are given an opportunity to realize their full potential.

Just last month, Waubonsee hosted U.S. Senator Dick Durbin at our downtown Aurora Campus to announce a new $2.8 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to serve displaced community residents. Waubonsee’s project, titled “Strengthening Transitions, Building Pathways and Improving Achievement for Disadvantaged Workers,” will allow the college to better assist students who are taking English as a Second Language (ESL) and GED courses to transition into health care, professional, scientific and technical service occupational programs. Also with this grant funding, Waubonsee will develop a new program in laboratory technology, which is a direct response to local employers’ needs. In addition to this TAACCCT grant, Waubonsee will participate as a consortium member in another TAACCCT grant program led by Harper College to develop a statewide network of advanced manufacturing programs.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Education designated Waubonsee a Hispanic-Serving Institution and in 2011 awarded the college a $3.2 million five-year Title V grant, titled “Removing Barriers to Success.” This grant also carries with it an emphasis on smoothing transitions for our students as they move up the educational ladder to success. It also allows the college to participate in the highly respected Foundations of Excellence program to evaluate and improve students’ first-year and transfer experiences. Increased use of and access to data is another benefit coming from the grant as we implement a powerful data warehouse this fall that will enhance our data-informed decision making throughout the college. We’ve already been able to see strong positive results, including nearly doubling the number of students coming off of academic probation this summer because of increased interventions.

For years, Waubonsee has offered programs through the federal TRiO grant program, which serves students from disadvantaged backgrounds and aims to increase college participation and success for first-generation college students. Waubonsee’s Student Support Services program helps students with tutoring, academic advising, counseling, career exploration and cultural opportunities to better navigate the college environment and move successfully toward degree completion. Our Upward Bound program is based at East Aurora High School and is making a huge impact on the lives of the students who often had not considered college as a possibility. Through strong mentoring, tutoring, college field trips and overall support, these students leave the program not only knowledgeable about the college admissions process, but also fully prepared for college.

Even with the uncertain economic climate we face today, Waubonsee is able to continue delivering life-changing educational opportunities due in part to receiving significant federal grant funding. We remain committed to developing innovative programs that maximize our financial resources and respond to the needs of the local, regional and national workforce.