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Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon: Tuition costs, student debt worrisome 

Joliet Herald News
October 9, 2012
By Mike Nolan

Rising tuition costs and concerns over mounting student debt loads are making the traditional college route less appealing to a growing number of young people, Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon told Southland business leaders Tuesday in Tinley Park.

Speaking to members of the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce, Simon said tuition costs in Illinois have risen in part because the “state hasn’t been doing its job” in maintaining funding levels for higher education, one ramification of the state’s ongoing fiscal turmoil.

And while jobless rates in several regions of the state remain “unacceptably high,” as many as 150,000 jobs statewide go unfilled because not every college grad has the skills, particularly in math, to meet the job’s requirements, Simon said.

She noted that a statewide initiative involving the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Illinois State Board of Education is bringing employers and educators together to ensure “that students, starting in high school, know what careers are available” in fields such as manufacturing and health care, which have unfilled job openings.

Higher college costs and student debt concerns come as officials at the state and federal level are pushing to boost college completion rates.

“The cost of college is going up in a big way, faster than inflation,” said Simon, Gov. Pat Quinn’s point person on education reform.

Some students are rethinking the traditional four-year-college approach and instead considering attending a community college, getting their associate’s degree, then transferring to a four-year institution “with a lot less debt” on their backs, she said.