Voters to consider community-driven plan for Harper's future

The Harper College Board of Trustees has unanimously approved a resolution placing a referendum question on the November 6, 2018, gubernatorial election ballot. The measure — which would not raise taxes — seeks up to $180 million to support a community-driven plan for Harper’s future that drives economic opportunity, educates for today’s high-tech jobs, and maintains and improves campus infrastructure.

“This plan helps position the students of Harper College, and our community at large, for a strong future. Importantly, this plan also reflects a careful stewardship of the community’s tax dollars,” Harper College Board Chair Greg Dowell said. “Today’s global economy demands workers be equipped with 21st century skills, and Harper must continue to innovate and adapt so students can achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth and economic opportunity.”

The College underwent a two-year engagement process to determine where the community would like to see Harper in 10 years. A task force of community members solicited input from thousands of taxpayers, students, faculty, staff, community leaders and businesses through a series of engagement sessions and surveys. The resulting plan identifies three priorities:

  • Priority 1 — Drive Economic Opportunity in Our Community: About two-thirds of all jobs will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school by the year 2020. A new building would support regional economic development by establishing a business resource center with programs such as Fast Track, customized training and the Small Business Development Center. It would also house Harper’s University Center partnerships, which provide more affordable, convenient four-year degrees. Total: $28.5 million
  • Priority 2 — Educate for Today’s High Tech Jobs: Just as jobs have evolved, Harper must evolve. Working with the industry-leading professionals who sit on Harper’s advisory boards, the College will modernize facilities and curriculum to better train skilled workers and support innovation. Harper will renovate facilities associated with academic programs such as accounting, business and education, while expanding and improving health careers and manufacturing facilities to provide more opportunities in these high-demand fields. Total: $88.7 million
  • Priority 3 — Maintain and Improve Campus Infrastructure: Harper will maintain and replace infrastructure such as roofs, electrical, plumbing, and other aging facility needs to ensure a safe campus. Harper will also invest in technology that supports learning and increases efficiencies. Total: $62.8 million

Due to the College’s careful fiscal responsibility, Harper has identified opportunities to fund these three community priorities without raising taxes. Existing bonds from the year 2000 are due to be paid off in 2020. At that time, property taxes would decrease by approximately $23 for a $250,000 house. If voters approve this plan, the College could issue new bonds for $180 million by replacing those old bonds, and taxes would stay the same.

To learn more about Harper’s community-driven plan for the future, visit harpercollege.edu/strongfuture.

Harper College Key Facts

  • Opened its doors in 1967
  • District serves more than 520,000 people in 23 communities
  • Has conferred nearly 90,000 degrees and certificates
  • About half of district high school graduates enroll at Harper
  • One of four community colleges in Illinois with Aaa bond rating (highest possible from Moody’s)
  • Average Harper graduate will earn an additional $591,000 during career (The Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University’s 2014 economic impact report)
  • Focus on completion — Harper’s graduation rate is at an all-time high