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College fair aims to boost employment opportunities

Ann Miller Elgseeks informatimath certificate from representatives National Louis University Thursday during College EducatiFair The Centre Elgin.   November

Ann Miller of Elgin seeks information on a math certificate from representatives of National Louis University Thursday during the College Education Fair at The Centre of Elgin. November 29, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 4, 2013 6:08AM

ELGIN — Migdalia Sepulveda of Elgin has been a stay-at-home mom for 14 years. She has a background in communications and now wants to get back into the workforce, she said.

Stephanie Horist is program coordinator for the city of Elgin. She’s interested in continuing her education because, she said, “I think a business degree is useful in many different facets.”

“It’s so broad, it can encompass anything you do. It’s good to have a business background — to be business-minded,” Horist said.

Both are interested in earning a master’s in business administration, they said. And that’s what brought them to the recent College Education Fair at The Centre of Elgin.

About 50 people attended the free event, a cooperative effort between the city’s human resources department and Resources for the Education of Adults in the Chicago Area, or REACh. And it was meant as a resource to help residents who are unemployed or underemployed, according to the city.

“We see this as a way to help people get the skills they need to get good paying jobs, and to provide our employers with a trained and educated employment pool,” Mayor David Kaptain said in a written statement about the fair.

The unemployment rate in Elgin was 8.7 percent in October, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. That’s up from 8.2 percent in September, but down considerably over the same time last year when it was 10.7 percent, the department said.

That’s still higher than both the state — 8.4 percent — and national – 7.5 percent — averages, however.

Representatives from about 15 area colleges and universities explained their programs and provided guidance and advice on the application process at the fair. Those schools included local institutions like Elgin Community College and Judson University, both in Elgin.

Judson University has been “doing pretty well” the past few years despite a downturn in the number of students that companies are supporting through school, according to Gerry Mravik, Elgin enrollment advisor at the university. But the private Christian university has seen “a lot of folks” transferring to the school after getting a two-year degree, he said.

Other colleges at the fair included Robert Morris University, National-Lewis University, Roosevelt University, Olivet University and Indiana Wesleyan University.

Sepulveda spent a long time at the booth for Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, learning more about its MBA program, because, she said, “It’s right in my neighborhood and it offers what I want.”

“It’s been informative and everything because now I’ve got all the information I need about getting my MBA, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

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