Monday marks the beginning of the fall semester at Sauk Valley Community College, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary during the 2014-15 academic year.
The college launched a yearlong observance last month and has special activities planned in September, December, April and July.
Half a century of service to our region is significant. SVCC President George Mihel reports that the college has graduated 17,000 students since its first commencement in 1968 awarded associate’s degrees to 115 young men and women.
The many ways in which those lives have been positively impacted is incalculable.
Two factors drove the creation of the college five decades ago: baby boomers and the Selective Service military draft during the Vietnam War.
Four-year state universities in Illinois were bursting at the seams with high volumes of students who wanted a college education, a draft deferment, or both. Many prospective students were turned away.
As a solution, state leaders promoted the creation of community college districts. They would provide the first 2 years of college education for students who could then transfer to a 4-year institution to complete their bachelor’s degrees.
With lower tuition rates and the opportunity for students to save money by living at home as college freshmen and sophomores, community colleges caught on quickly.
Since Sauk Valley Community College’s permanent building opened in 1970, the college has steadily expanded its offerings over the years. It has promoted adult literacy, assisted small businesses, established a dual credit program, opened a physical fitness center, offered the Tech Prep program, created a technology wing, updated its biology labs, launched a new Math Lab, and much, much more.
When Northwestern Steel and Wire abruptly shut its doors in May 2001, the college responded with retraining programs for displaced workers.
In 1995, when the name of SVCC’s athletic teams, the Redmen, posed concerns about racial insensitivity, college leaders agreed to drop the name and replace it with Skyhawks.
Along with offering college courses, SVCC enriches the community with musical concerts, plays, and sporting events.
And don’t forget the huge library that anyone in the district can use, free of charge.
SVCC has a website, www.svcc.edu/50, that provides more information about the anniversary, whose slogan is “Changing lives for 50 years.”
We join the community in congratulating President Mihel, the board of trustees, faculty and staff for all that they have done to serve our region.
We urge students to take full advantage of SVCC’s many offerings.
And we mustn’t forget the taxpayers, who approved the new college and voted a new tax on themselves in 1965, and who later approved a tax increase in 1984. From our perspective, their investment has been well worth it.