City Colleges plans to consolidate programs sparks complaints

Malcolm X College Student Grand Opening
Students at Malcolm X College celebrate the opening of the brand new campus, which is now the healthcare hub. (Branden Hampton/MEDILL)

By Branden Hampton

After numerous complaints from students and faculty, the City Colleges of Chicago has postponed the consolidation of all of its child development programs at a single campus on the North Side.

The consolidation will now take place in the fall of 2018 instead of fall 2016, according to Jennifer Alexander, the faculty council president at Richard J. Daley College in West Lawn and one of the vocal opponents of the consolidation. CCC’s child development programs are now located at six of the seven campuses and the original plan was to move all of them to Harry S. Truman College in the Uptown neighborhood.

Alexander added that she was glad CCC made the decision to postpone the move, but the potential negative impact on students was “still unacceptable.” The decision was made by the Board of Trustees in December 2015.

Also at that meeting, the board approved a plan to move the dental hygiene program now located at Kennedy-King College in Englewood on the South Side, to the new campus at Malcolm X College on the West Side.

These two moves, and other potential consolidations, are part of the CCC’s “reinvention initiative,” which aims to improve academic offerings and better prepare students to secure jobs or transfer to four-year institutions. The first consolidation was of nursing programs in 2014, which eliminated programs at four community colleges and opened one citywide program at Truman College. The nursing program will move again to the new Malcolm X campus, which has a focus on health care, later this year.

Losing access to programs?

City Colleges are mostly located in black and Latino communities. The plans to consolidate and move programs will have the most impact on students of color, and some students will end up with long commuting times to class. (Branden Hampton/MEDILL)

The CCC’s plans have sparked controversy because of fears that students, especially students of color, will lose access to academic programs in their communities and end up with long commute times to new campuses. Students and faculty also say CCC has crafted its plans for major changes without consulting students and faculty.
Alexander said the lack of communication was evident before the initial decision was made to consolidate the child development programs. “I was downtown meeting regularly with them [CCC officials] and they never even thought to say, ‘Oh by the way we’re going to close your program.’ They didn’t even let the students know for two weeks … and it was just one email.”

“I believe that our community college should serve the neighborhood and provide accessible education in the area,” declared Norma Ramirez, a student at Daley College, who spoke at the December board meeting against the plan to move child development programs to Truman and noted the two-and-a-half hour commute on public transportation from Daley College to Truman. “This change adds on to the struggles students already endure in order to acquire a college education.”

Benita Hunter, an early child development professor at Daley College, said CCC should consider alternatives.

“Instead of consolidating all of the programs, why not just have a South Side program? A West Side Program? A North Side program? Loop Area? Keep three or four of the seven programs instead of eliminating all of them,” Hunter said.

At Kennedy-King, an estimated 65 programs have been removed and only 37 remain in place. In addition to losing its nursing program, the school is slated to lose its dental hygiene program, which provides low-cost services to Englewood residents, according to faculty member Corey Hall. The automotive technology, computer information systems and the business and social service programs are scheduled to be transferred, he added.

“We would like to engage in a substantive, action-based dialogue regarding efforts to preserve existing programs at Kennedy-King College and to create new ones that will benefit the students, the citizens of our community and Chicago as a whole,” Hall said.

New campus at Malcolm X

The new Malcolm X campus will serve as the healthcare hub of CCC and officially opened its doors to students on Jan. 19. The nursing program now at Truman College will move to Malcolm X College by June of this year, according to Aymen Halim, media director for Malcolm X College.

The new 544,000 square foot campus is directly across the street from the current campus and features space for health science, general education and adult education classes. It includes” state-of-the-art technology in every single classroom,” said David Sanders, interim president of Malcolm X. Wireless connectivity has been improved, and the academic support center has been expanded to allow for more intensive tutoring.

The campus also boasts a new “virtual hospital” that simulates the environment in an actual hospital. Sanders called it “a game changer… There are very few institutions, especially community colleges, that have this type of investment for its students.”

Jazmine Martinez, a student at Malcolm X, said the new campus is a plus for students “especially with the new floors with the simulation labs and the manikins. It’s very cool.”

Photo at top: Students at Malcolm X College celebrate the opening of the brand new campus, which is now the healthcare hub. (Branden Hampton/MEDILL)