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Lt. Governor Simon visits Shawnee Community College 


Highlights tutoring program for nursing studentsPhoto courtesy of Shawnee Community College

ULLIN – Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today continued her Complete College Tour at Shawnee Community College, the sixth stop on her statewide tour to increase college completion rates.

“I applaud community colleges for being the most accessible and affordable higher education options for students throughout our state,” Lt. Governor Simon said. “Now I also want to work with them on fostering student success, so our state can produce the best educated workforce in the nation.

Simon announced earlier this year 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. The tour of the state’s 48 community colleges offers Simon an opportunity to see how each school is working to improve completion rates and workforce development, while gathering ideas on how the state can help schools overcome barriers to completion goals.

A tour with Shawnee Community College President Larry Peterson highlighted the many college readiness, licensure and support services that are offered by the southern Illinois school. Shawnee representatives visit local high schools on a weekly basis to discuss college preparation and answer financial aid questions. Once enrolled, students are encouraged to participate in social programs, receive technology assistance and visit the school’s certified counselors or tutors.

 “Shawnee prides itself on the attention and services provided to our students, but we always strive to offer more to better serve the community,” Peterson said. “We look forward to working with Lt. Governor Simon as she understands the needs of the Southern Illinois region and has always been a champion for education.”

A two-pronged approach to student resources and mentoring in the nursing program has served as a successful model for Shawnee, Peterson said. New students in the nursing program are required to take a summer orientation class to familiarize themselves with health care topics and learning strategies, as well as program and campus services, before taking their first college-level course.

Additionally, the college has hired a Registered Nurse to serve as a tutor to assist students in labs and run small-group and individual tutoring sessions. The tutor is available during weekday, evening and weekend hours in order to ensure accessibility to all students.

The Licensed Practical Nursing program had a 60 percent graduation rate over the past three years, and 100 percent of graduates have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) over the past five years, a rate higher than the state and national averages.

One challenge Shawnee faces in increasing completion rates is the difficulty in providing consistent support services, including tutoring, to all of its students. Administrators cite lack of funding as the biggest barrier to the campus’ future growth and success. Simon has supported the Governor’s debt restructuring bill and proposed increase in MAP grants, and recently testified in favor of performance-based funding for higher education.

“Illinois is serious about increasing college completion,” Simon said. “We need to increase course, certificate and degree completion so that more students who walk in the door of community colleges walk across the stage at graduation and into an Illinois workplace.”