Off-campus education center set to open

By Wendy Arquilla

The doors of the Hoffman Estates Education Center will open on schedule even though opposition and controversy almost left them permanently locked.

Opening ceremonies for the center will begin Thursday at 9 a.m. in the center’s auditorium.

Kathy Gilmer, director of the Hoffman Estates Education Center, said the ceremonies will “provide an opportunity to celebrate the cooperative spirit and to recognize the individual achievement that made the center possible.”

Gilmer said the center represents an “excellent” example of cooperation between local and state government, private enterprise and higher education.

“The center consolidates the locations that NIU programs and services have provided in the community for the past 50 years,” Gilmer said. NIU taught undergraduate and graduate courses in area junior colleges and high schools before the concept of the center.

The center will offer undergraduate classes as well as graduate programs, including a master’s degree in business and education and a bachelor’s degree completion program in nursing, Gilmer said.

“There is such a wide array of classes offered,” said NIU Provost J. Carroll Moody. “It’s like a sampling of the NIU class catalog.”

The facility is located on 3.9 acres of land donated by the village of Hoffman Estates and the Sears Merchandising Group.

“Hoffman Estates was chosen as the site for the center because it is a dynamic area of growth and development,” Moody said. “NIU is contributing to an important section of Northern Illinois.”

Originally, the construction of the center was fought by Theodore Gross, the president of Roosevelt University, a private university in Arlington Heights.

Gross said it was unfair for NIU to receive the Hoffman Estates land because the donation would bring more competition to private universities in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

However, attitudes have changed.

According to Moody, Roosevelt spokesmen said they have experienced an increase in enrollment which proves that both the NIU center and Roosevelt can prosper in the area.

“There are plenty of opportunities for all universities involved to prosper in the area,” he said.

An open house will be held on Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon for those who cannot attend the opening ceremonies.