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Lt. Governor Simon tours Elgin, Harper 

Complete College Tour focuses on high school to college transition  

ELGIN – September 28, 2011. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon continued her Complete College Tour at Elgin and Harper community colleges today to hear how the schools are working to raise completion rates by collaborating with local high schools.

Simon announced earlier this year that Illinois leaders want to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates to 60 percent from 41 percent by 2025. As the Governor’s point person on education reform, she is touring the state’s 48 community colleges to see completion efforts at each campus, while also compiling ideas to overcome the barriers to each college’s completion goals.

“To remain competitive in the global workforce, we need more students who walk through the door of a community college to walk out with a degree or certificate,” Simon said. “One way to improve these odds is to make senior year of high school more relevant to the college experience.”

At Elgin Community College, Simon learned about the Alliance for College Readiness, which brings educators from ECC and the area’s four public high school districts together to work on curriculum alignment in math, English and reading. The goal is to better prepare students for college-level work, thereby reducing the number of students in remedial courses that tap into financial aid but don’t always count toward a degree or certificate.

Among other initiatives, the Alliance created a summer bridge program for high school graduates who are “almost college ready” that is team taught by high school and college faculty. Since 2007, approximately 73 percent of students who’ve taken the refresher course in reading, writing and math skills have tested out of at least one remedial course. The program was opened to adult, returning students for the first time this summer.

“ECC is pleased with the success of the Alliance for College Readiness and its Summer Bridge program,” said ECC President David Sam, PhD, JD. “These are important partnerships in District 509 that are having a significant impact on our students while addressing the important national issue of college readiness.”

Simon spent the afternoon at Harper College and learned about the Northwest Educational Council for Student Success, a similar collaborative approach between Harper College and its three feeder high school districts. In the year since its inception, the Council has collaborated on college readiness testing and course offerings to reduce remediation needs.  

In 2010-11, more than 5,700 high school juniors in Harper’s district took math placement tests to gauge their college readiness, up 50 percent from the prior year. As a result of early testing, in High School District 211, 88.5 percent of juniors enrolled in a math class their senior year, compared to 76 percent the year before.

The Council is also helping students finish their college math requirements while they are in high school. High school students who take Algebra II also take the final exam for Harper’s Intermediate Algebra course. If they do well on the exam, they can take Harper’s Math 101 class in their high school during their senior year. If they pass Math 101, they have fulfilled their math requirement for college programs that don’t require higher levels of math – saving them time and money, and reducing the number of students at risk of remedial work.

“This is great example of where better alignment and communication can achieve tangible results, said Dr. Kenneth Ender, Harper College President.  “Early testing and dual enrollment are cost effective ways students can get a head start on college. It also reduces the number of students who need remedial work before they start credit classes at Harper.”

Elgin and Harper were the 37th and 38th stops on Simon’s Complete College tour.