Two best practices modeled by Northern Illinois University were part of the “College Completion Playbook” unveiled by Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon during the two-day Scaling Up: Effective Practices in Higher Education conference in Bloomington, Ill.
Building on her efforts to reduce costs and boost graduation rates at Illinois universities and community colleges, Simon’s guide collects the effective practices of national experts and successful Illinois educators.
“It can be challenging to take a good idea from one campus and make it work on another,” Simon said.
“The guide will instruct educators on what to do – and what not to do – when trying to replicate programs that help students complete meaningful degrees on time and in less debt. Our goal is to scale up successful college affordability and completion practices across the state.”
Findings and recommendations of the College Completion Playbook include plans for the following:
- Reducing “credit creep” or the unnecessary credits students take to attain a degree, modeled by Southern Illinois University.
- Increasing internship opportunities – preparing students to join the workforce and creating connections with future employers, modeled by Illinois State University.
- Streamlining course credit transfers from one school to another, modeled by NIU and Waubonsee Community College.
- Identifying when students may be heading off course for graduation, modeled by NIU.
More than 150 administrators are attending the conference, representing all of the state’s public universities and more than 30 community colleges. The conference is hosted in partnership with the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Community College Board, Illinois Student Assistance Commission, Lumina Foundation, College Productivity Strategy Labs, Complete College America and Microsoft.
Speakers include Jamie P. Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation, the nation’s largest private foundation committed solely to enrolling and graduating more students from college; Harvard Graduate School Professor Christopher Dede; Larry Abele, provost emeritus of Florida State University; and Illinois State University President Timothy Flanagan.
“The talent that we need as a society is growing rapidly,” said Merisotis, noting the two biggest challenges are affordability and success rates. “We need to do a better job of producing more and better talent in terms of our higher education institutions.”
Prior to coordinating the conference, Simon visited all 48 community colleges in Illinois to discuss their completion efforts and convened Affordability Summits at each of Illinois’ 12 public university campuses to learn how best to address rising costs.
In February, she released a white paper outlining game-changing reforms that save students money and speed time to degree; the conference shows many of these reforms in practice.
Simon serves as the state’s point person on education reform. In this capacity, Simon is working to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates to 60 percent by 2025. Her goals are to prepare Illinois’ workforce for the highly skilled jobs of the future, to improve employment opportunities and ensure continued economic growth.