KEY CHARACTERISTICS AND TRENDS
Describing the College's External and Internal Environments
Updated March 2010
Oakton’s external environment is shaped by trends and characteristics of residents, businesses,
educational institutions, public agencies and governments, other organizations and the economy.
The external environment provides the setting within which the College develops and offers
programs and services that respond to student, employer and community needs. The external
environment also affects resources available to the College.
To learn about the external environment, we hold numerous conversations with local, state and
national leaders; convene meetings with employers; review public and professional literature;
and analyze data and information about the area, the state and the global economy. Based on
these studies, Oakton identifies these important characteristics of the external environment:
The district's population is stable in terms of size -- an estimated 467,000 individuals –
and is not expected to change significantly.
The district is becoming increasingly diverse with respect to ethnicity, race, nation of
origin, culture, religion, educational background, English language competency and
household composition (for example, single-parent families and multiple generation
The population is well-educated, upper middle class. For example, 49 percent of adults
age 25 and above have a college degree, compared to 30 percent statewide, and 27
The estimated 2008 median household income in Oakton’s district ranged from $62,624
in Maine Township to $153,215 in New Trier Township, while state and national
medians were $55,935 and $52,175 respectively.
K-12 public school systems are strong. As many as 97 percent of high school graduates
attend postsecondary education. The district also contains a number of private and
parochial schools that offer all levels of education through high school. K-12 officials
report an increasing number of students with special needs, including students with
physical, emotional and/or learning disabilities.
The number of school-age children is stable. Schools do not anticipate significant
Business and Industry
Oakton’s district houses more than 25,000 businesses of all sizes. The labor market includes
substantial numbers of employees in service, financial, health care and related occupations at
all levels. Economic Modeling Specialist Inc. (EMSI), a national labor market research
company, estimates there are more than 400,000 full- and part-time jobs in Oakton’s district.
Employers indicate they need employees who have not just technical skills, but also the ability
to communicate, work in teams, think critically, solve problems, and demonstrate
The geographical base is largely developed, with minimum potential for added housing.
In many communities, older housing is being demolished and replaced by new single
family or multiple family residences.
Local public governments, including five townships and 13 municipalities, as well as
library and park districts, have traditions of high-quality service and relative autonomy.
There is a growing number and diversity of schools, organizations and commercial
vendors offering education and training to residents and employees through distance
education, in traditional classroom settings and at the workplace. More than 50
postsecondary institutions are within easy driving distance of Oakton.
Unemployment in the Local Workforce Area #8 area rose from 4.9 to 8.5 percent from
December 2008 to December 2009. The area includes Oakton’s and Harper Colleges’ districts
and a small area within Elgin Community College’s district; this area comprises the north and
northwest sections of Cook County. While the unemployment rate remains below state and
national levels, it is a continuing cause for concern.
The assessed value of taxable property in Oakton’s district is $26.3 billion. Due to a low
rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in 2008, the College estimates additional revenue
from property taxes will just $250,000 in FY2011, down from a $2.5 million increase in
Illinois is experiencing significant and growing financial issues. Support for higher
education continues to be problematic. Oakton’s revenue from the state continues to
decline. It is expected that the state’s financial health will continue to decline at least for
the next several years.
State agencies, legislators, accreditation agencies, the federal government and the public
continue to demand more accountability from schools at all levels, including colleges and
In addition to examining trends and characteristics shaping the external environment, participants
in Oakton's strategic planning process looked at trends and characteristics describing the
College's programs, services, personnel, facilities and other resources.
Oakton students are enrolling in more credit courses than ever before. In Fall 2009, the
number of students enrolled in credit courses at Oakton increased by 13 percent over Fall
2007, and Oakton students are also enrolled in 13 percent more credit hours.
Approximately 47,000 students enroll in Oakton’s credit and noncredit courses each year,
including courses approved by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and
personal interest courses that do not require state approval. Of the enrolled students,
more than 15,000 individuals take Oakton credit courses annually, with fall term
enrollments of more than 10,500. The Alliance for Lifelong Learning draws more than
95,000 course enrollments (duplicated headcounts) each year.
The student population is racially and ethnically diverse. Twenty percent of Oakton
credit students are Asian, 9 percent are Latino, and 6 percent are African-American.
More than 15 percent of Oakton students already have a bachelor’s or higher college
degree, while more than half the students who take placement tests require remedial
coursework, especially in mathematics.
Some 40 percent of Oakton students report that English is not their native language or the
language spoken in the home. More than 50 different languages are spoken on campus.
Educational goals are diverse. Forty-six percent of students plan to transfer, 46 percent
enroll for career-related reasons, and 9 percent enroll for personal enrichment or
Oakton students transfer to more than 640 different colleges and universities across the
country. Four-year institutions in the Chicago area attract the largest number of transfers
Oakton offers associate degrees in liberal arts, science, education, engineering, art, and
music, as well as in 30 different career fields. The College also offers more than 100
certificates in career fields.
Each term Oakton offers some 1,700 credit classes and 1,300 noncredit classes (through
the Alliance for Lifelong Learning).
Sixty-four percent of credit courses are at the Des Plaines campus; 26 percent are at the
Skokie campus; eight percent are online and the remaining two percent are offered at
other locations, including high schools and businesses. The Alliance for Lifelong
Learning offers courses at more than 200 different sites.
The Alliance for Lifelong Learning’s continuing education consortium includes Oakton
and four of the five public high school districts: Evanston, Maine, Niles, and Northfield
Oakton offers nearly 140 different online courses that draw more than 4,500 enrollments
The College has entered into numerous partnerships with area high schools, colleges, and
universities, and business to expand the number and nature of educational programs and
services available to students and employees. More than 700 high school students
enrolled in dual credit courses in 2009, earning both Oakton and high school credit.
Faculty and Staff
Oakton employs 154 full-time faculty and some 600 part-time faculty to teach credit
courses. The Alliance for Lifelong Learning employs more than 700 part-time faculty
members to teach non-credit adult and continuing education courses.
As of Spring 2010, more than 20 percent of full-time faculty had been at the College for less
than five years, and more than one-quarter of full-time faculty will retire by 2013. Thus within
eight years (2005-2013) nearly 50 percent of full-time faculty positions will turn over.
Among the 32 administrators, one-third have been in their Oakton positions for five years or
More than 800 people volunteer at Oakton each year as members of the Board of
Trustees, the Oakton Educational Foundation, Advisory Committees, Volunteers in
Teaching Adults (VITA) program, and special groups such as theater ushers.
Facilities and Technology
The College hired Legat and Associates to conduct a Facilities Master Plan, with a target
for completion in December 2010. The Plan, which will include both the Des Plaines and
Skokie campuses, will include a review of infrastructure conditions and needs; space
utilization; classroom conditions and the extent to which they accommodate 21st century
teaching approaches; student spaces; and external space.
The College redesigned and launched its new website on November 1, 2009. The new
site and the Banner student information system enable students to conduct a variety of
transactions online, including applying, registering, paying, and accessing their grades.
Wireless access is available in public spaces (cafeteria, library, Student Street, etc.), with
limited availability in classrooms. We are continuing to expand wireless access in
The College continues its course of prudent fiscal management while aggressively
pursuing alternative funding sources. The total Fiscal Year 2010 budget was $98.3
Oakton’s revenue comes from these sources: local property taxes (42.5%); student tuition
and fees (24.0%); state government (13.5%); sales, services, and auxiliary revenues
(12.5%); and federal government (7.5%).
Oakton received $1.5 million in externally funded competitive grants in FY2009, and
$1.68 million from state and federal non-competitive grants.
As of June 30, 2009, Oakton had reserves of $59.8 million in unrestricted net assets and
$22.7 million in restricted net assets. The College has no debt.
From FY2008 through 2012, Oakton anticipates using approximately $11.8 million from
reserve funds for infrastructure repair and upgrades at the Des Plaines campus, and
another $4-5 million for strategic initiatives that directly support Change Matters goals
The Oakton Educational Foundation has assets of more than $10 million. In Fiscal Year
2009 the Foundation awarded 244 scholarships for $313,000.