Educational Institutions

Blackburn University

Learn. Work. Earn.

aka Blackburn College

Carlinville, IL


Blackburn College links a rigorous and affordable liberal arts education with a unique student-managed Work Program preparing graduates for careers, community engagement, and lifelong learning. The Blackburn community values critical and independent thinking, leadership development, diversity and inclusion, service, shared governance, and moral responsibility.

Ruling Year



Julie Murray-Jensen Ed.D.

Main Address

700 College Ave

Carlinville, IL 62626 USA


Higher Education Institution; Work College





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Undergraduate College (4-year) (B42)

Higher Education Institutions (B40)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

B.A. Degree Program

Where we work

Charting Impact

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

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What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

Blackburn College aspires to provide a distinctive, nationally recognized liberal arts model, grounded in student leadership, mutuality, and scholarship and cultivated through a community of integrated work, learning, and service. Its mission is to provide a coeducational student body with a rigorous, distinctive, and affordable liberal arts education that prepares graduates to be responsible, productive citizens. The Blackburn community values critical and independent thinking, leadership development, respect for all individuals, and lifelong learning. The College fosters a sense of service, community, and moral responsibility through its unique Student-Managed Work Program, its collegial concept of shared governance, and its faculty/staff mentor relationship with students.

The Blackburn College Work Program experience offers an opportunity for students to refine skills necessary for success after college including: adaptability, communication, initiative, leadership, personal and social responsibility, problem solving, interpersonal relationships, project management, and job-specific skills.

Blackburn seeks to provide an opportunity for a higher education to students from low and modest-income families who qualify for entry into college.

Marketing of the College's programs continues to target specific student demographics. Blackburn particularly seeks out students in East St. Louis, Chicago and the small towns of central Illinois as well as recruiting nationally. The College has increasingly moved its marketing to electronic media, making use of social media, the College's website and other electronic means to get the message out to prospective students. The public relations/marketing staff has increased its use of “geo-tenting" – advertising to a specific geographic area via Facebook and other social media.

Liberal arts studies are the foundation of the College's academic rigor, and the College's administration and faculty continually monitor and adjust the program to ensure program quality and relevance. The faculty recently revised the general education requirements, bringing them up to date for today's world. Students have the opportunity to provide feedback about the classes, and program evaluations take place regularly.

The Work Program process includes evaluations of students' work by their supervisors, which accompany the academic transcript. The work transcript provides information about the jobs worked, skills required for the jobs and a record of a student's progress from entry level to advanced skills. Submitted together to an employer, the academic and work transcripts provide a full picture of the capabilities of Blackburn graduates.

Blackburn employs 36 full-time faculty members who are dedicated to teaching and mentoring students and an additional 33 part-time faculty who have the same heart for teaching. Of the full-time faculty, 95% (35 of 37) have their terminal degree in their field. Faculty who choose to work at Blackburn do so because they wish to teach and interact directly with students. Small class sizes in the upper divisional classes provide for a personalized education, which is facilitated by the student/faculty ratio of 10/1 (2012-13).

Blackburn also employs a skilled and dedicated staff who contributes directly to the student experience and serves as supervisor/teachers. Many staff members serve as front line supervisors in the Work Program and in that capacity provide training, mentoring, and counseling as students matriculate through their years of study and work at Blackburn.

Blackburn's admissions office employs eight full time staff including recruiters and support staff. Blackburn has a presence at high school and college fairs, admissions counselors visits high schools and develop working relationships with high school counselors. Much of recruiting today is focused online with a strong social media presence, which directs prospective students to the College's website. The website is primarily focused on student recruitment.

Programs are in place to support Blackburn's high risk population since many of the College's students are first generation college students and students with significant financial need. The College has a support network on the campus to which all students can turn to obtain assistance when they are struggling. We ensure that all freshmen have advisors, and faculty and staff receive advisor training.

The Work Program has increasingly focused itself on providing skills training and work ethic development. Our staff is as dedicated as the faculty to the growth of students as they progress through their years in the Work Program. Staff provides mentoring and advising throughout the students' time at Blackburn.

Blackburn provides students with a Career Development Center and full-time director who works with students to build resumes, identify career interests and skills, practice and critique interviews, and educate them regarding how to find open positions. The center incorporates latest technology and access to databases to assist with the students' job searches.

Blackburn regularly formulates, implements, monitors, and evaluates a five-year plan containing specific goals and the initiatives for achieving the goals. The plan is a “living" document regularly reviewed and evaluated. The goals expressed in the current plan include:

* Develop and manage funds for the Work Program, technology, off-campus programs, academic programs, athletic programs and facilities, faculty and staff professional development.
* Facilitate enrollment growth and improve retention.
* Prepare students to succeed in a highly competitive workforce through explicit and intentional integration of skills and competencies with work, service, and liberal arts experience.
* Broaden traditional academic scheduling with flexible options.
* Institute an apprenticeship model to highlight the instruction given by professional staff and faculty in the work program.
* Expand collaboration with the Work College Consortium.
* Model a democratic community of professionalism, diversity, respect for others, maturity and welcoming behavior that will also serve as a support for all types of cultural experiences
* Diversify marketing techniques to showcase Blackburn.
* Utilize existing and emerging technologies to enhance learning and to provide services.
* Provide an environment that will encourage and enable the design, development, and completion of faculty/staff generated collaborative projects.
* Engage with the local and regional communities in efforts to improve regional technology infrastructure and cooperation.
* Continue to improve the college's performance in resource efficiency and avoiding environmental degradation through implementation of the sustainability plan.

Key performance indicators and selected metrics are monitored on an annual basis to evaluate progress toward reaching each of the strategic goals. Annual progress reports with key performance indicator targets for future performance help ensure that the College maintains a course toward its vision of providing a coeducational student body with a rigorous, distinctive, and affordable liberal arts education that prepares students to be responsible, productive citizens.

Marketing strategies continue to evolve and increase, upgrading admissions materials, the website, advertising and social media. A goal of 700 students has not yet been reached, but inquiries and numbers of applicants have increased.

Efforts to increase freshman-to-sophomore retention have resulted in improved support systems for students at risk (e.g. first generation college students and students from low income families). Programs such as the Early Alert Support Team (EAST) provide mechanisms for faculty and staff to bring students at risk to the attention of a support network of campus personnel who can assist students to resolve problems.

Funding is available to students who need financial assistance to obtain necessities and books and to assist with emergencies. The Affordable Access Award (AAA) scholarship has been implemented to cover the entire costs of tuition if the FAFSA indicates a student's parents are unable to contribute to tuition costs and the student is eligible for both Illinois and Federal assistance.

We are creating linkages between academic programs and Work Program assignments. Along with an academic transcript, students receive a work transcript listing jobs and skill sets. Program development planning is underway to identify Work Program employment off campus to include local employers who can provide career-related training (e.g. accounting, computer programming, etc.).

Blackburn's comprehensive capital campaign has received more than $22 million in gifts and pledges towards a $25M goal. Campaign funds are already being utilized for building renovations, campus improvements, scholarships, and technology needs.

Capital projects underway include:
* Renovating the former student center, converting it to an alumni welcome center and to house the Institutional Advancement staff. This frees up needed space in the administration building.
* Filling in the old swimming pool, converting it to a fitness center to benefit students, faculty and staff.
* Phase 3 renovation of the Learning Commons (library) – the main reading room. The learning commons is a resource for students and faculty for research and for individual and collaborative work and learning.
* Some progress has been made to encourage sustainability on the campus, focused primarily on recycling and conservation of energy. Other ways to enhance financial and environmental sustainability remain to be identified.

External Reviews


Blackburn University

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?