ECC, Harper to open joint college mini-campus in Hanover Park

By Dave Gathman

March 13, 2014 1:38PM

Updated: March 13, 2014 3:36PM

ELGIN — After years without a physical presence in its far-eastern fringes, Elgin Community College is joining with Palatine-based Harper College to open a mini-campus in Hanover Park.

The facility will specialize in programs and classes for the unemployed, for non-high-school graduates and for people speaking English as a second language.

Under an agreement with Harper and the village of Hanover Park that was approved this week by the Elgin college’s board, ECC will lease a vacant 10,000-square-foot retail building in the Hanover Square strip mall, along the west side of Barrington Road just north of Route 20.

ECC officials said the facility likely will be called “the Hanover Park Education and Work Center.”

Fall start

ECC Vice President Sharon Konny said the first ECC classes will start there next fall, but “the building will probably open sometime around July 1, so people can start coming in and meeting with the coordinator and registering for classes.”

Besides classes, ECC Adult Education Coordinator Peggy Heinrich said, an employment assistance organization called the Chicago-Cook Workforce Partnership will offer counseling programs for people who are looking for a job and who may want to upgrade their qualifications by earning a GED (General Education Diploma) or taking some college courses.

Harper will have preference on use of the building in the daytime while ECC can offer classes and programs at night. The center is just inside the ECC side of the border between the two community college districts.

“I think this is an ideal location,” said Ellie MacKinney, vice chairman of the ECC Board of Trustees. “This community has needed a place where people can come for many years.”

Splitting costs

Under the agreement, which lasts for three years, operating costs will be split 50/50 between ECC and Harper. Konny estimates the total yearly cost to ECC at $250,000, including half of $120,000 that will be paid to the village government to rent the building.

The failing shopping center was purchased by the village government three year ago and is largely vacant.

Konny said the cost of outfitting the building with new furniture and equipment will be partly covered by a $200,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Heinrich said one snag in the project is that state officials won’t allow either ECC or Harper to offer regular, tuition-based courses at the site — only courses and training that are paid for by grants — because of questions about which college would get matching state financing.

Heinrich said courses likely will include English as a Second Language; GED and pre-GED courses in both English and Spanish; and continuing-education classes that would prepare students to study at the main ECC and Harper campuses for careers such as nursing and early-childhood education.

All classes will be offered free to eligible students.

ECC offers some courses in the Streamwood Village Hall and at some high schools throughout its district but does not own or rent any other secondary campuses such as the one in Hanover Park.

ECC closed its Fountain Square campus in downtown Elgin several years ago. It is, however, planning to build a Public Safety and Sustainability Center in Burlington.

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