ENGLEWOOD — New City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado plans to go into the community himself to help boost student enrollment, which is at an all-time low in Englewood.
“The big thing I want to do right now around Kennedy-King College, is I want to go around and talk to lots of people,” he said on his first day as chancellor.
There has been a drop in enrollment for the Englewood college. There were 9,532 students in 2015, the most recent year available, down 23 percent from the 12,407 students it had in 2012.
At a news conference Monday at Kennedy-King College, 6301 S. Halsted St., Salgado introduced his vision for City Colleges of Chicago and announced interim college presidents for Truman College and Olive-Harvey College. He wants to see permanent presidents by the end of next year.
Shawn Jackson was named interim president of Truman Colleges’ center of excellence for education. He’s currently the Chief Officer of Leadership and Learning at Chicago Public Schools. Salgado said he’s confident in Jackson’s leadership and that it will be a good thing for students to see a “male educator of color” in the position.
Felicia Davis was named interim president of Olive-Harvey College, which is City Colleges’ center of excellence for transportation, distribution and logistics.
“She’s an amazing role model and an excellent fit,” Salgado said.
He said that higher education in Illinois is in “uncharted waters” considered local and state budget problems, but that they must not let the reality “dampen” the students’ futures.
“We need a no-excuse culture,” he said. “Every challenge is an opportunity to reverse the enrollment trend. I can’t do this alone.”
“My non-profit background has trained me to bring people together to seek creative solutions to hard problems,” Salgado said, “and I will rely on this experience as we engage faculty, students, staff, four-year colleges, employers, the community and our elected officials to ensure our students and communities are connected to economic opportunity.”
With a background in community organizing, Salgado said that the part of his new job that he’s looking forward to the most is meeting new people.
He introduced himself to students after the news conference, asking them questions about why they chose Kennedy-King and if they would be willing to return to their high schools, churches and communities to share their experiences.
He told DNAinfo he did that to learn specifically what attracted them to the institution.
“I want to get more students here,” Salgado said. “We’re going to have to really understand what got our current students here and then we’re going to have to understand how we can tap into their knowledge and tap into their relationships.”
The goal is to form a group of student ambassadors, students who will encourage others to enroll at one of the City Colleges.
“Nobody can tell our story better than our students can tell our story, I certainly can’t,” Salgado said.
Alexis Bradford will graduate in spring 2018. She said she did her research and asked around before enrolling.
“It’s one of the best places for culinary,” Bradford said, adding that the college is close to home so her commute is short.
She plans to attend the University of Georgia for a degree in food science.
Alicia Rodriguez, 19, said she’s on board with Salgado’s ambassador plan.
“I can hopefully motivate and inspire students,” she said.
There isn’t a specific timeline on when this group will form, Salgado said.
“We’ve already gotten started, so it’s not like there’s no work going on, but we do have to up our game,” he said. “This is about looking at what we’re doing and saying, ‘OK, how can we up our game?’”
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) attended the news conference and along with Ald. Michelle Harris (8th). Sawyer said he believes that with everyone working together they can see an increase in enrollment.
It will take educating more people on the cost-saving benefits of attending one of the City Colleges, Sawyer said. People also want to be confident they’ll get jobs after they graduate, he said.
“I believe people want to understand that going to a community college can result in some positive outcome so they can get their certificates and get jobs right away,” he said.
Kennedy-King College will also be announcing a new interim president once current president Arshele Stevens leaves. Officials said there hasn’t been a date set for that announcement.