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Lt. Gov. wishes more colleges would copy south suburban consortium 

 

Northwest Indiana Times
September 21, 2011
By Gregory Tejeda

CHICAGO HEIGHTS - Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon was in the south suburbs Wednesday as part of her tour of all 48 community colleges across the state. She said there is one thing that exists locally that she wishes existed elsewhere.

That thing is the South Metropolitan Education Consortium, by which colleges in Chicago's south and southwest suburbs formally cooperate, combining their strengths to allow their students more educational opportunities.

Simon, who visited Prairie State College in Chicago Heights and South Suburban College in South Holland, said she has seen colleges in other parts of Illinois that have informal agreements to cooperate. But the local effort -- administered out of Governors State University in University Park -- is the most organized, Simon said.

"You guys seem to be ahead of the pack in terms of formalizing your cooperation," Simon told a gathering of officials from the 12 colleges that are part of the consortium. "There is a lot of room for improvement (locally), but you also are much further advanced than some educators in other states."

Simon, who has visited 30 community colleges thus far, plans to meet with City Colleges of Chicago officials Oct. 3 to 4 and hopes to finish her tour by mid-October. Simon said she is looking for strengths and weaknesses that she eventually will report on to Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly.

She said she likely will include positive mentions of the "reverse transfer" program administered by colleges in the south suburbs in which students attending a community college have their past academic work (particularly courses at other colleges) audited to see if any of it qualifies for college credit. The move is meant to boost the chances of community college students actually completing work toward an associate degree.

Simon could be seen taking detailed notes about the program on the back of a consortium booklet that explains their joint efforts.

Simon said one area where she'd like to see more cooperation is with high school students. She wonders what changes can be made in high school curricula to better prepare students for college.

Simon speculated about the possibility of teaching mathematics courses in later years of a high school student's term so that the material would be fresher in their minds when they arrive at college.

"Right now, we're having to reteach to some students math they already were taught in high school," she said. "Perhaps jiggling the curriculum a bit would improve things, without spending more money."

Simon said such improvements would bolster community college efforts.

"Anybody can educate the (high school) valedictorian," she said, adding that community colleges should have, "the ability to educate people other (schools) might have given up on."