You can earn a college degree in Iroquois County

April 14, 2019

Kankakee Community College will be changing lives in Iroquois County.

KCC operates the Miner South Extension Center at 1448 E. Walnut St. in Watseka. It is a facility with a modern office building feel. There are four classrooms with new desks, chairs and computer terminals.

There’s a nice entryway, a student lounge area and art on the walls, all there, in part, because of the Harold and Jean Miner Foundation. The Miners were rural Watseka farmers and business people who established the foundation for the benefit of students and communities of Iroquois County and the surrounding area.

More appropriately, what is there is an opportunity. It now is possible to get a KCC Associate of Arts degree in two years through classes exclusively offered at the KCC center.

This degree program is called a FastPath. Basically, the program takes a group of students who march through the program in a cohort. They start the same classes, take the same classes for two years and graduate at the same time.

While it is a lockstep everyone-together program, it also has a big advantage of having students learn from each other, as well as from the instructor the curriculum. You will always know someone else in the class.

The first cohort of 11 started last fall. There could be as many as 20 students in future cohorts. The center has been operating for six years, but the cohort system is markedly new.

“I think this will reach students who would not otherwise go to college,” said Nancy Schunke, the coordinator of the Miner South Extension Center for KCC.

She said the FastPath system is especially beneficial for Iroquois County students who have transportation issues getting to Kankakee.

KCC, she said, has turned the Wasteka Center into a one-stop shop for college students. It operates pretty much like any other college campus, with classes, testing, advising, financial aid and tutoring all available at the one site.

Of course, FastPath is not the only offering on the campus. KCC also offers free GED High School Equivalency classes and English as a second language classes at the site. Both are free.

There also are programs in CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and Microsoft Office Suite Certification at the Watseka site.

Basically, the center eventually will be able to offer just about every classroom-type class, excluding those like welding or automotive that require heavy or specialized equipment.

About 200 students are involved in various programs at the center.

“I only see it getting better,” Schunke said.

The center is open Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Advisors are present Tuesdays from 4 to 7 p.m.; Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment.

Tutoring is available in basic computer skills; English and literature; library and research skills; college-level reading; and MLA/APA (Modern Language Association/American Psychological Association) style used for college-level papers.