Since its beginning in the early 20th century, America's community college system has grown into one of this country's largest gateways to opportunity.
By some counts, U.S. community colleges educate half of the nation's registered nurses and other health care workers; more than eight in 10 of our first responders; and large percentages of those working in a wide variety of other fields, trades and professions, ranging from high-tech manufacturing to auto repair, business and finance, and more.
The Community College Research Center documented that more than 7 million students enroll in America's community colleges each year. According to a study released last year by The Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University, in conjunction with the Illinois Community College Board, about 10 percent of those students, or more than 700,000, are attending a community college in Illinois. What do these students receive for their investment? Besides lives enriched through education and deeper cultural experiences, NIU's study revealed Illinois community college graduates can expect to boost their lifetime earnings by more than $570,000, or 44 percent more than they would with a high school diploma. With numbers like these, it's clear why so many students continue to look to institutions like Waubonsee Community College for the education they need to achieve their dreams.
Waubonsee and many other community colleges continue to seek ways to expand that gateway to opportunity, both figuratively and literally, to meet the needs of an ever-growing population and the demands of an ever-evolving, 21st-century workforce.
Since 2002, Waubonsee has sought to build better, more advanced facilities, positioning us to adapt to the changing needs of our students and rapid advances in the technology that drives our world.
Our 2020 College Master Plan provided the blueprint for this expansion and development. Launched by two voter-approved referendums, the various projects have invested nearly $130 million in the future of our students and our communities.
Over the past decade, Waubonsee has built a new Campus Operations Building, Science Building, Academic and Professional Center, and Student Center on its Sugar Grove Campus, along with entirely new campuses in downtown Aurora and Plano.
And on Tuesday, March 10, we will celebrate the opening of the new Field House and the official completion of the 2020 College Master Plan -- ahead of schedule and on budget. We invite you to join in the celebration; visit waubonsee.edu/fieldhouse/ for more information or to RSVP.
In marking this significant achievement in the college's history, we will celebrate the amazing teamwork and community support we have received, as well as the expanded opportunities these new facilities offer our students and our communities.