February 10, 2011
BLOOMINGTON -- Lt. Governor Sheila Simon told Illinois community college presidents today that she wants their schools to play a major role in educating our workforce and stimulating the economy.
To remain competitive in the national and global marketplace, Illinois needs to increase the proportion of working-age adults with high-quality degrees and credentials from 41 percent to 60 percent by 2025, Simon said.
To do so, schools will need to cut down on the number of people who “stop out” of their higher education, either by dropping out of high school or leaving college with no degree or credential. For every 100 students who enter ninth grade in Illinois, just 20 receive a degree or credential on time, Simon said.
“Nearly two-thirds of all jobs in the future will require a college education, whether that’s a certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree,” Simon said. “But at today’s pace, less than half of our workforce will ever achieve that level of education.”
“I want to know that when students walk through the door of a community college, that the odds are in their favor,” Simon added. “We need to have a system that helps students graduate with a meaningful credential or degree that will enable them to find a job in Illinois, contribute to our society and provide for their families.”
Simon will personally deliver this completion goal to each community college campus this year, as she tours all 48 Illinois schools statewide. She wants to see firsthand how each school is preparing highly skilled graduates, from all walks of life, for needs in the labor market.
As Governor Pat Quinn’s point person on education, Simon will report back to Springfield 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.
“Each community college visit will be part show and part tell,” said Simon, a former law professor at Southern Illinois University. “Educators will show me what’s producing results for students and employers in their communities, and tell me what state policies can boost college completion and productivity.”
The number of community college completions hit a record high in fiscal year 2010. A total of 56,884 collegiate-level degrees and certificates were awarded by Illinois community colleges last fiscal year, up 14 percent since 2006, according to a new report from the Illinois Community College Board.
“We are eager to be working with Lt. Gov. Simon on the college completion agenda that is so important to developing Illinois’ workforce,” said College of Lake County President Jerry Weber, current leader of the Presidents Council, an organization composed of the presidents of the state’s 48 community colleges. “Community colleges have had great success with opening college access to students and in preparing these students for the local workforce or for continuing on to pursue bachelors’ degrees. Now we are also ready to embrace the challenge of developing innovative approaches that will lead to more college graduates and a more highly skilled workforce.”
Simon’s tour is set to begin next week at John A. Logan College in Carterville, where her husband chairs the social science department. Logan is one of seven community colleges statewide that are piloting a College and Career Readiness Program that aims to better prepare high school students for higher education coursework and reduce the number of remedial math and English courses that do not count for credit and delay 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. Participating states set college completion goals, create action plans and implement policy changes to meet them. Illinois wants 60 percent of adults aged 25 to 64 to hold high quality credentials or degrees by 2025.
"Clearly, Illinois is serious about boosting college completion," said Stan Jones, president of Complete College America. "With Governor Quinn's leadership, Lt. Governor Simon's personal commitment and the guidance of the state's higher education agencies, Illinois is now better poised than ever before to transform higher education to significantly increase student success and ensure its economic future."
Simon announced her Complete College Illinois tour today during a joint meeting of the Illinois Community College Presidents Council and the community college Chief Academic Officers, and Chief Student Services Officers held in Bloomington.
“We applaud Lt. Governor Simon’s confidence in Illinois community colleges,” said Guy Alongi, chairman of the Illinois Community College Board. “Our community colleges respond quickly and effectively to the educational and workforce needs of their districts and are an integral partner in any strategy for long-term economic recovery and health.”