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September 26, 2008

HIGHER ED PUBLIC AGENDA READY FOR PRIME TIME

IBHE, Task Force will review preliminary plan for shrinking achievement gap, linking higher education to state economic needs

SPRINGFIELD – After months of meetings, briefings, forums, hearings, discussions, conversations, conference calls, dialogue, and Q’s and A’s, a preliminary Public Agenda for College and Career Success will soon be ready to for public viewing.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) and the Public Agenda Task Force will review a draft agenda in meetings early next month before releasing the plan for public comment. The proposed plan calls for focusing state resources and policies on eliminating the stubborn disparities in education attainment affecting minorities and most geographic regions of the state, strengthening efforts to make college affordable, increasing the number of Illinoisans with college credentials, and augmenting the link between college and university innovation assets and the state’s economic needs.

“We are at a critical stage of this endeavor to create a Public Agenda to guide Illinois higher education and state policymakers to focus on the critical education and workforce needs of Illinois and its citizens,” Carrie J. Hightman, Chairwoman of the Board and the Task Force, said. The Task Force will meet at 2 p.m. on Monday, October 6 th at Harold Washington College. The Board of Higher Education will meet at 9 a.m. October 7 th at Kennedy-King College.

Hightman noted that the Task Force, with ongoing involvement of many IBHE members, has made significant progress in drafting a major planning blueprint for higher education, but that the preliminary agenda remains a “work in progress.”

She added, “Task Force and Board members have been diligent in fulfilling the mandate of House Joint Resolution 69. But it is important to keep in mind that the document produced to date is a draft that invites the critical scrutiny and thoughtful analysis of all stakeholders in our higher education enterprise.”

The draft Public Agenda notes that the impending convergence of demographic trends, education attainment levels, and economic conditions will present challenges for the state to meet the workforce demands of employers and the educational needs of citizens. The preliminary plan focuses on four goals and a variety of recommendations and strategies for fulfilling them:

  • Increase educational attainment to match the best-performing states and nations.
  • Ensure college affordability for students, families, and taxpayers.
  • Increase the number of individuals with quality postsecondary credentials to meet the demands of the economy.
  • Better integrate Illinois’ educational, research, and innovation assets to meet economic needs of the state and its regions.

“This planning initiative is one of the most important endeavors ever undertaken by the Board of Higher Education,” Chairwoman Hightman said. “We need and value the insights of the public, the higher education community, and elected officials as we move forward to build an action agenda that will secure the economic future of the state of Illinois and the well-being of all of its citizens.”

Also on the Board’s agenda will be a briefing by Andrew Davis, Executive Director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, regarding issues of affordability, including student loan debt and the effects of the tempestuous credit market on the ability of students to finance their education.

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