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Community colleges provide a gateway to higher learning and a variety of educational opportunities serving today’s diverse student body. Not far from Northwest Indiana, Joliet, Illinois, is home to our nation’s first public community college. Launched in 1901 and originally housed inside Joliet’s main high school, Joliet Junior College provided a two-year option beyond 12th grade — placing higher education within improved reach of individuals by anchoring it in one’s community.

Envisioned by University of Chicago President William Rainey Harper, the junior college model cast a wider net affording more people opportunity to pursue higher education. Initially, junior colleges offered only liberal arts studies, mirroring the first two years of university undergraduate coursework.

By 1947, the Truman Commission Report — Higher Education for American Democracy — proved instrumental in reshaping post-secondary education by aligning it with America’s role as leader in the post-World War II era.

The report’s recommendations included establishing a network of public, two-year, community-based colleges to best serve local higher education and workforce training needs.

Connected through the shared goals of access and service, junior colleges — now referred to as community colleges — assured open admissions and affordable tuition as a common mission. Two decades later, the Higher Education Act of 1965 supported wide scale construction of public colleges and affordable ways for students to fund their education. Today, community colleges educate more than half of all American undergraduates.

Fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Ivy Tech Community College is the United States’ largest singularly accredited comprehensive community college. Ivy Tech has 19 campuses and 26 learning sites serving 75 Indiana communities. Indiana’s largest institution of higher education, Ivy Tech remains highly responsive to local needs and workforce development.

The modern workforce is comprised of professionals with technical know-how, interpersonal skills and an ability to critically think in a work environment no longer resembling dingy factories of the past.

Two-thirds of new jobs require education beyond high school. Needed postsecondary education is increasingly in the form of an industry-recognized credential or certificate dovetailing into a two-year degree.

Credit earned at Ivy Tech also can be transferred to partnering four-year colleges in our Region and across Indiana, saving a student upward of $10,000.

Internship opportunities provide students with valuable workplace experience by the time interns finish their degrees. Ivy Tech also works with skilled trades apprenticeship programs and enhances Hoosiers’ job skills to meet local employment and industry needs.

Northwest Indiana has three Ivy Tech campuses. The Lake County campus consists of facilities in Gary, East Chicago and Crown Point. The Valparaiso campus is centered in Porter County. The Michigan City campus and its LaPorte site serve LaPorte County. Innovative initiatives, such as the one-year Associate Accelerated Program (ASAP), expedite completion of concentrations including elementary education teacher certification — starting June 2018 at the Michigan City campus.

The Steelworker of the Future degree is offered through Lake County Campus, and the Industrial Technology Maintenance Training program is available at Valparaiso campus.

With a rich community-centered history, we invite you to experience Ivy Tech Community College.

Peter J. Linden is chancellor of the Michigan City campus for Ivy Tech Community College. The opinions are the writer's.

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