Oakton Community College will change its name to become Oakton College starting Jan. 17, the institution announced Tuesday.
College President Joianne Smith said the name change “is a way of affirming and reaffirming for current and future students what the Oakton experience is.”
The north suburban school stressed that it will remain an “open-access community college” that will continue to offer associate degrees, continuing education programs and State of Illinois High School diplomas (which themselves have undergone a name change and were formerly known as high school equivalency certificates).
But in dropping the “community” from its moniker, Oakton follows a number of other Chicago-area community colleges that don’t use the term, including College of DuPage, Harper College, McHenry County College and the City Colleges of Chicago system. Others like Elgin Community College retain the term, while Joliet’s remains a junior college in title.
The shift at Oakton has been in the works since its 50th anniversary celebration in 2019 and the board of trustees formally approved the switch in 2021.
That conversation began with “a moment of reflection” on where the college was headed after its first half-century, she said.
Smith characterized the new name as a bid to reintroduce the institution, which serves the area stretching from Des Plaines to Evanston, to potential students on the heels of the pandemic.
“We believe that Oakton College will resonate more with community members and prospective students,” Smith said.
She added that changing the college’s name was also an “opportunity for us to remind our community that we’re here … and that we provide relevant life changing education for members of our district.”
The institution is also debuting an updated logo that depicts a person rising out of a stylized oak leaf in two shades of green.
“Our logo symbolizes growth,” Smith said. “It’s a person emerging from growth and the new logo has variations in color, which reflects the diversity of the Oakton community.”
The college worked with the firm ADV Marketing on the updated logo, Smith said.
Some signs have already been replaced on Oakton’s Skokie and Des Plaines campuses, but spokesperson Ewa Lyczewska said the full changeover would take three years.
This year, Lyczewska said Oakton has budgeted $400,000 to update signs and other logo uses.
The changes will also appear on the college’s website beginning Jan. 17. Smith said those updates would be aesthetic rather than functional because Oakton just completed a major website upgrade in June.
“I think that the name change reflects Oakton’s willingness to be flexible and evolve as the world around us is evolving, which I think is one of our values as a community college,” she said.
The college will begin using its new name at the May 2023 commencement ceremony.