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Lt. Gov. Simon visits JALC on “Complete College” tour 

 

February 17, 2011

CARTERVILLE – Lt. Governor Sheila Simon visited John A. Logan College today during her first stop on a statewide tour to increase college completion rates.

Simon observed a “college and career readiness” program that aims to prepare local high school students for college-level work at John A. Logan College. The program is designed to reduce the amount of time students spend in remedial math and reading classes and improve completion rates. It is being piloted at seven community colleges across the state.

“Time is the enemy when it comes to college completion,” Simon said. “The longer it takes for students to get into core classes, the more likely they are to drop out. We need students to be ready for college on day one, so that they are still engaged on day 100 and succeed to graduation day. I applaud John A. Logan College for leading the way in this reform effort.”

Simon announced last week that the state wants to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates to 60 percent from 41 percent by 2025. This way, Illinois will have the highly skilled and educated workforce necessary to fill jobs of the future.

Simon will personally deliver this completion goal to each community college campus this year, as she tours all 48 Illinois schools statewide. Simon kicked off her tour today at John A. Logan College where her husband is the social science chair, saying she wants to see firsthand how each school is preparing to increase completion rates and connect students to the labor market.

Community colleges will play a large role in reaching the new completion goal as they are the most accessible and affordable options for many students, said John A. Logan College President Bob Mees

“John A. Logan College has been one of the fastest growing community colleges in the state for a number of years, and our research has shown that students who graduate from John A. Logan College do better as juniors and seniors than students who begin their career at a university.  We have also found that individuals can increase their lifelong earning potential by over $200,000 by completing an associate’s degree. That is why it is so important that we focus on both recruitment and retention,” Mees said, noting that enrollment and completion rates at John A. Logan College are on the rise.

John A. Logan College’s college and career readiness program was created in 2008 through legislation sponsored by State Sen. Edward Maloney. The multi-faceted program works to align the subject matter taught in high school classes with the expectations of college professors. Under the program, high school and college faculty team-teach in reading, writing and math, and students are provided extra support, whether via mentors, online tutoring, or additional programming at lunch or after school. 

Just under 200 students participated in the program last semester from Carbondale, Murphysboro, DuQuoin and West Frankfort high schools. This semester, Johnson City High Schools is also participating.

Administrators are just beginning to measure the program’s impact, but the goal is for these students to need fewer developmental education or remedial classes once they get to college. Developmental education courses typically do not count for credit and are not always covered by financial aid, which means students are incurring debt without actually progressing toward their degree or certificate. This hurts their chances for college completion.

Under Governor Quinn’s leadership, in 2010 Illinois was one of the first states to join Complete College America, a national nonprofit working to significantly increase the number of Americans with a college degree or credential of value and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations. A team of state educators and leaders is working with Complete College America to determine the number of additional completions each community college and public university will need to achieve annually to reach the 60 percent by 2025 goal. 

As Governor Pat Quinn’s point person on education, Simon will report back to Springfield after her tour on ways lawmakers can help more young people and adults, from every corner of the state, earn certificates and degrees that lead to jobs and stimulate the economy. Two areas that are ripe for reform are remedial education and transfer systems, Simon said. Right now, too many kids are not ready for college when they arrive, and too many students get lost trying to move from a community college to a four-year university.

“Illinois is serious about increasing college completion,” Simon said. “Up to this point, the emphasis – rightly so – has always been about making sure every student, from every walk of life, could walk into the door of a community college,” Simon said. “We also need to make sure that those students aren’t walking out empty-handed, in debt, with broken dreams. We want them to walk out with a piece of paper that will get them a good-paying job and help them achieve the American Dream.”