April 1, 2011
By Kathie Bassett
GODFREY — Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon toured Lewis and Clark Community College’s campuses Friday to explore ways to improve college completion rates.
Accompanied by LCCC President Dale Chapman, Simon first visited the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, learning about the field station’s initiatives related to research and education.
Upon arriving at the Godfrey campus, Simon toured the college’s Mobile Health Unit, followed by a tour of the Templin Nursing Building, including classrooms and teaching labs.
"This is a beautiful facility," said Simon, who is the process of visiting all 48 of Illinois’ community colleges.
"At the end (of my tour), I’ll give the information I’ve collected to the governor and the General Assembly," she said. "I’m looking for ways that the state can do a better job of helping you guys get the job done."
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.
The lieutenant governor listened attentively and asked questions on how the college connects with four-year institutions, kindergarten-through-12th-grade programs, local industry and businesses, and the general needs of the community.
"When we look at statistics, the United States used to be ranked Number One in the world in the percentage of college graduates; we’re now 12th," Simon said. "The national average is 40 percent, and right now, Illinois is ahead of the pack at 41 percent — but only slightly."
On her stop, Simon spoke with Linda Chapman, LCCC’s vice president of academic affairs, about the college’s dual credit/high school partnership program, which is the largest and only nationally accredited dual credit program in the state.
Dale Chapman provided Simon with information about student demographics, noting that more than 40 percent of area high school seniors are enrolled in the program, involving as many as 2,000 students.
Simon also was interested in the college’s workforce training program.
Linda Chapman explained to Simon that the college is working toward success in three targeted areas: success in developmental courses, success in the first general education course and success in online learning.
LCCC is piloting a program that embeds developmental math and English material as an alternative to non-credit-bearing remedial courses that are needed to get students up to college-level learning but can slow down their progress toward a degree.
Another challenge that many community colleges face, including LCCC, is how best to measure completion, Linda Chapman said.
Current completion rates only tabulate if an enrolled student eventually completes a degree or certificate, but does not account for a student’s original enrollment intention. Community colleges throughout the state are looking to implement better metrics to classify these students, she said.
"Educational opportunities lead to economic opportunities," she said. "Community colleges are a great asset to the state. Community colleges can really respond quickly to changing needs in the job market and providing people ready to be engaged in new roles."