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Oakton College changes name to reintroduce itself to community

Oakton College officially dropped “community” from its name Tuesday.

The community college has campuses in Des Plaines and Skokie. It serves students in Oakton College District 535, an area that encompasses more than 450,000 residents in locations including Evanston and Wilmette.

“A new name really felt like it would be a good way to refresh and reintroduce ourselves to the community we serve,” said Katherine Sawyer, Oakton College Educational Foundation executive director.

Sawyer, who also serves as Oakton’s chief advancement officer, said the change was inspired by the college’s 50th anniversary in 2019. Oakton’s Board of Trustees and college leadership used the milestone as a “chance for reflection and vision forward,” she said.

The rebranding will cost $400,000 for the 2023 fiscal year, Oakton reported on their website. This money goes toward updating graphic design both physically and digitally, such as the website, signage, social media and paper documents.

Regardless of its name change, Oakton is still a community college. It will continue offering associate degrees and certificates, rather than four-year programs — despite some student misconceptions.

“Our mission remains very, very much grounded in the community,” Sawyer said. “That mission does not change in any way.”

Oakton follows several other community colleges that decided to omit “community” from their names, including College of Lake County, College of DuPage and Harper College.

Oakton student Eva Mishow said she has noticed some stigma for attending a community college but enjoyed her time and quality of education at Oakton.

Leading up to the change, the college hosted stakeholder conversations and released surveys to employees, students and alumni to gauge opinion on rebranding, according to Sawyer.

Even so, some students like Mishow did not hear about the change until last semester.

“I first heard about it in a class in the fall, and I was wondering why they weren’t telling everybody about it,” Mishow said. “To many of us, it was a surprise.”

Casey Jiliane Subong, who also attends Oakton, similarly said she did not hear much about the rebranding until recently.

However, Subong said she is now concerned about what the new name means for tuition.

“I’m scared about it because, of course, with the name change — in terms of money — it’s gonna go big as well,” Subong said.

According to Oakton’s website, the 2023 tuition rate will likely not change due to the name change.

Some individuals at Oakton raised concerns about the environmental consequence of replacing physical items branded with the former name, like business cards and letterheads.

Sawyer said the college and the board created a three-year rollout plan for the name change in order to transition in a sustainable and fiscally responsible way.

In June, Oakton launched its strategic plan Vision 2030, which aims to build “just and thriving communities.” Sawyer said the college is working to enable social and economic mobility, as well as racial equity and civic engagement.

“People don’t realize what a treasure we are,” she said. “This has really given us a chance to remind folks.”

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @karapeeler

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