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  1. Lt. Governor

Getting Students To Graduate 

January 29, 2012
By Fanna Haile-Selassie and Andy Shofstall

CARTERVILLE -- The Illinois General Assembly begins in two days and Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon says her office has a few pieces of legislation to offer that could affect thousands of high schoolers, like requiring four years of math.

Simon says thousands of Illinois high schoolers are not prepared for college, and that plays a big role in the state's graduation rate. She says unless more students start graduating, the state will have a large hole to fill in its future workforce.

Employers and employment centers say the same thing: jobs are out there, but they can't find people with the necessary skills to fill them. Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon says the problem is only going to get worse.

"Economists have predicted that two-thirds of the jobs as we go down the road in the next decade are going to require some kind of college credential. We need to be the state that's ready to go on that," Simon explains.

Her solution is to get people to graduate. Roughly 19% of the state's full-time community college students graduate within three years, and Simon says those rates could be improved if high school students were better prepared for college.

"The more students need to take remedial courses, the more it means they're spending their college savings on non-credit courses, getting slowed down on their path toward a degree," explains Simon. "And the more that that path is slowed down, the less likely people are to complete that certificate or degree that they were seeking."

Steve O'Keefe with John A. Logan College agrees.

"We've been part of a college readiness program, a pilot program that's working with our area high schools to help cut down on the amount of developmental classes our students have to take," O'Keefe explains.

Sixty percent of John A. Logan students had to take math or english remedial courses last year, which means up to five semesters of classes didn't count toward graduation. However, O'Keefe says the Lieutenant Governor is not taking the rough economy into account.

"For a student to come in and take 12 to 15 hours a semester hour any more, we're just not seeing it very much. They're coming in and taking nine hours, six hours."

O'Keefe says the school will work with the Lieutenant Governor to improve its 22% completion rate, because it, too, hopes to see a more educated workforce in the future.

O'Keefe says one problem with the state's completion rate is it doesn't account for students who transfer to 4-year universities, or community members who just want to complete a course or two for personal benefit.

We have Sheila Simon's entire proposal on our website, including how your local community college ranks on graduation rates. Just click on the related content link.