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September 21, 2007

Report on Partnership to Bolster Student Transfer Highlights IBHE Meeting

SPRINGFIELD – An initiative to improve opportunities for students to transfer from community colleges to Southern Illinois University (SIU) will be the subject of a special presentation to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) early next month.

The University will highlight its new community college service center program, which offers a variety of services to assist students interested in continuing their education beyond the community college, when Board members gather for their regular meeting at SIU Carbondale at 9:00 a.m. October 2.

“We look forward to this presentation and thank SIU for the opportunity to learn more about this innovative new initiative,” Carrie Hightman, Chairwoman of the Board, said. “It is increasingly critical for students to gain ever-greater levels of postsecondary schooling, and therefore it is vital that our four-year institutions and community colleges forge partnerships such as this to smooth the path for students to pursue their educational aspirations.”

The SIU project, first launched at Southeastern Illinois College in August, places SIU staff on community college campuses to assist students who may be interested in obtaining a bachelor’s degree. The SIU staff work with counselors and faculty at the community college to broker student services and perform other “ombudsman” functions to ease the eventual transfer to a baccalaureate program. The service centers will coordinate existing programs such as “2+2” opportunities and dual admissions, as well as assist students with other tools – the Illinois Articulation Initiative and the Course Applicability System – that help select coursework that will readily transfer to a senior institution.

SIU also has agreements to set up similar centers at Southwestern Illinois College at its Red Bud campus, Shawnee Community College, Rend Lake College, Olney Central College, John A. Logan College, and Kaskaskia College.

Board members also will hear a presentation on an innovative regional partnership to spur economic development through expansion of widely available, affordable broadband Internet access.

Connect SI is a 20-county community and economic development initiative based at SIU-Carbondale. It is working to encourage growth of knowledge-based jobs and businesses throughout Southern Illinois through access to broadband Internet technology. The healthcare industry has been a leading force in the initiative.

In July, the university announced an agreement with Man-Tra-Con, a management consulting firm in Marion, to take over primary management of Connect SI. Kathy Lively, Executive Director of Man-Tra-Con, will address Board members on the initiative and its success in promoting economic development in Southern Illinois.

The Board will act on allocation of Innovation Grants under the Higher Education Cooperation Act (HECA) program, consider new approaches to review of academic programs and approval of new institutions, and vote on a strategic plan to guide the agency in budget and policy development over the next several years.

The Board will consider funding for 26 Innovation grant projects totaling $3.9 million, with a particular focus on initiatives that support baccalaureate completion. In all, 61 proposals requesting $8.8 million were received for the competitive HECA grants.

The 12 new and 13 renewal projects target, among other things, preparation for college, transitions from community colleges to four-year universities, degree completion for disabled veterans, and transitional programs for health professionals.

A special Board working group, under the leadership of Board Member Elmer Washington, prepared recommendations to revise the process for new academic program approval and requests from new institutions to set up shop in Illinois. Among the recommendations are requirements that all institutions advise students on what it takes to transfer credits to another college or university, that colleges show how their coursework articulates with counterpart institutions, and that they demonstrate improvements in their capacity to use technology to deliver academic programs.

The recommendations also call for a streamlined process for new program requests from institutions with a proven track record in Illinois, and periodic review of new institutions to examine their performance.

Also on the Board agenda is adoption of a new strategic plan for the agency, IBHE 2011: A Strategic Plan for the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The Board marks its 50 th anniversary in 2011. The proposed plan focuses on four broad areas: affordability, education attainment, diversity, and efficiency. It contains specific action steps and performance measures to guide the Board’s activities, policies, and allocation of staff and resources. The strategic plan is the first step in undertaking a broader planning initiative – constructing a new master plan and public agenda for higher education in Illinois, as mandated by House Joint Resolution 69, which passed the General Assembly earlier this year.

“One of the Board’s key statutory responsibilities is to plan for higher education in this state,” Hightman noted. “This is a critically important endeavor for the Board, for the higher education community, and for all education policymakers in Illinois, including members of the legislature and the executive branch. We expect the agency’s strategic plan and the higher education master plan to be vital tools not only in guiding our actions as a Board, but as the roadmap to economic growth and wellbeing for the state and its citizens.”


Don Sevener

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