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Lt. Gov. Simon learns about SRC programs
Canton Daily Ledger
September 30, 2011
By Larry Eskridge
CANTON — Praising its involvement in preparing high school students for the college environment and its focus on providing learning opportunities for people over 50, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon visited Spoon River College on Monday as part of her Complete College Tour.
Simon said her goal is to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates in Illinois to 60 percent by 2025. Working toward that end, Simon is touring all 48 Illinois community colleges to get ideas on overcoming the barriers to each college's completion goals and to get a glimpse into how those colleges are working to attain those goals.
Simon took a tour of the SRC Canton campus, looking into a video conference math class with a student there. The video conference featured an instructor from the college's Macomb campus. Simon also visited the college's Academic Success Center, where she learned students from SRC were outperforming students starting out at four-year colleges.
Simon also spoke with faculty teaching agriculture and diesel mechanics classes, learning about the program dealing with locally grown foods and the opportunities for diesel mechanics, particularly in the area of railroad jobs.
Following the tour, Simon heard a presentation by Gary Schindler, Dean of Student Affairs, concerning the COMPASS Testing program.
Sophomores in six area schools -- Astoria, Cuba, Havana, Lewistown, Spoon River Valley, and VIT -- were tested in the areas of reading, writing, and mathematics to determine if they were on track to handle college courses. Schindler noted the schools were doing a good job in such preparation, with 29-56 percent of students tested ready to do college level work in reading and writing.
Schindler went on to say the COMPASS program was not just about testing students but also developing a relationship with high schools, students, and parents. Following testing, workshops were given for parents and teachers about academic and career planning, college admission standards and costs, and financial aid and scholarship searches.
Schindler noted these things needed to start in the sophomore year rather than waiting for the senior year for high school students.
Simon said visiting community colleges in person gave her a better sense of what the schools were doing rather than just reading reports.
Simon heard from a number of SRC administrators and staff concerning the ease with which students transferred to four-year schools. She was told the school had a good relationship with Western Illinois University and that they were working on improving transferring credits to other schools.
Simon noted Illinois had a reputation in other states for doing a good job in that area.
One of the areas discussed was of grants and other student funding, with SRC officials noting many community college students enrolled at a later date than other students, with the result that most grant funding had already been spoken for. Simon added many of the students enrolling in community colleges had been employed and found out their jobs were ending just a few weeks before they enrolled in community colleges for more training.
SRC President Robert Ritschel also remarked that such funding from the state should be used for students attending public schools rather than private ones.
One of the areas Simon particularly found impressive was the college's work with residents over 50. She praised the college helping older students find ways to complete degree work as well as continue to be life-long learners.
Simon was also told about the partnerships SRC had developed with Cook Medical in Canton and Pella Windows in Macomb. One person said the main reason Pella had decided to open operations in Illinois was the availability of a well-educated work force.
Simon ended her visit by thanking the college for allowing her to visit and providing information. She also invited future communication.
"I want you to consider this the beginning rather than the end of this conversation," she said.
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