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Lt. Gov. Simon visits Illinois Eastern Community Colleges 

Learns what makes IECC a leader in completion rates

MT. CARMEL – June 22, 2011. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon is bringing her Complete College Tour to Illinois Eastern Community Colleges this week to learn how its schools achieve some of the highest completion rates in the state and the nation.

Simon said other community colleges statewide may be able to learn best practices from IECC, which has two colleges ranked among the top 10 percent highest performing in the country. All four IECC schools have completion rates that place them in the top-15 of Illinois community colleges. School leaders point to dual-credit programs with district high schools, placement testing, and intervention measures for students in remedial courses as the district-wide approaches contributing to IECC’s high completion rates. 

“We can fix what is not working in our higher education system with what is already working in our system,” Simon said. “We must learn from each other to reduce barriers to college success and create an educated workforce.”

To keep pace with the changing economy, Illinois must increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates to 60 percent from 41 percent by 2025, Simon said. She is touring each of the state’s 48 community colleges to promote the state’s completion goal and observe how administrators and educators are working to achieve it.

Simon started her IECC tour Wednesday at Wabash Valley College, and will return on Friday to visit Lincoln Trail, Olney Central and Frontier Community College, the 20th stop on her tour. Frontier boasted the top completion rate among Illinois community colleges at 46 percent during the 2009-2010 school year, 25 percentage points above the state average.

Earlier this year, Olney and Lincoln Trail were ranked in the top 120 community colleges nationwide by the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit, based on their graduation and transfer rates. Judges also looked at the number of low-income and minority students who completed their programs of study and if those rates improved over time. The two schools are now vying for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, to be awarded in November.

“IECC has a tradition of meeting the educational and economic development needs of southeastern Illinois and the Aspen Institute’s selection of Olney Central and Lincoln Trail are further recognition of that tradition,” IECC CEO Terry Bruce said. “Lt. Governor Sheila Simon is a welcome advocate for Illinois’ community colleges and we look forward to working with her to maintain the level of excellence displayed by the entire IECC system.” 

On Wednesday’s visit, Lt. Governor Simon also discussed IECC’s efforts to link students with local employers. Lincoln Trail College’s Telecommunications Program has been so successful that officials are now reaching out to employers outside the IECC district. At Wabash Valley, all Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs include advisory panels comprised of local employers that evaluate curriculum on an annual basis, while Frontier College has student clubs for each CTE program that organize field trips to meet with employers.