This year marks the 155th anniversary of the founding of Lincoln College.
This is a significant personal anniversary as well because 2020 also marks five years since the Board of Trustees selected me to become the president of Lincoln College.
In 2015, Lincoln College was at a crossroads.
The two-year junior college model that the school adopted in 1929 at the beginning of the depression was no longer practical. For Lincoln College, the financial trajectory was clear and it was not one that was going to end well for the school or the community.
Our student body was more diverse than it had ever been, reflecting a new and different world. They had already left our old educational model behind and we had to catch up with them. The path forward required that both the College and the greater community embrace change.
The Lincoln and Logan County community can ill-afford losing the $59 million in annual economic impact that Lincoln College represents. It touches everyone in the community, even those who believe they do not have a direct connection to Lincoln College. Now, five years later, I am optimistic about our future and about the positive impact that a revitalized Lincoln College has and will continue to have on our community.
Every step of the way, I have been encouraged by the support of forward-thinking community leaders who recognize not only the economic importance of Lincoln College, but who also understand how Lincoln and Logan County benefit from our diverse student body.
I am proud that, as we move forward, we have been able to attract record numbers of local students. Young people from Logan and surrounding counties have been choosing Lincoln College. They are not just accepting, but embracing a diverse world.
Students and their families understand that Lincoln College prepares them for a changing workplace. Our students graduate with a significant advantage over those who have not had the opportunity in college to collaborate with people of varied backgrounds and experience.
This year we welcomed our first international students from China. In an increasingly global world, Lincoln will benefit immensely from the connections we are making with future leaders of the world’s second largest economy.
I would be lying if I said it has been an easy journey during these last five years. But I do know that we had to begin this journey and along the way we have found unexpected rewards. Enrollment is up by 29% since 2015, and students now have options to stay here to complete their bachelor or master’s degree and athletically compete for four years.
Beyond the economic impact, a local college should provide its host community with educational opportunities. Our bachelor’s degree programs are already attracting adult students from the Lincoln area.
As we grow our graduate degree programs and expand our Accelerated Bridge to Education (ABE) program on the Lincoln Campus, we can give area residents the credentials they need to break through the glass ceiling that so often blocks advancement for working people without a degree.
I look forward to the day when nearly every Logan County resident is taking advantage of the educational opportunities we can provide.
Higher education today faces significant challenges. Lincoln College is no exception. But, five years in, I believe we are seeing the benefits of the difficult choice our trustees made in 2015 to change course and boldly move forward into the 21st century.
Dr. David Gerlach
President, Lincoln College