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Baker Report: Rethinking higher education in Illinois

March 6, 2015
NIU Transfer Open House: Feb 13, 2015

NIU Transfer Open House: Feb 13, 2015

Given the dynamic nature of the 21st century workforce, the changing landscape of higher education and the serious financial challenges faced by the State of Illinois, it is up to public universities in the state to think of innovative ways to efficiently deliver a high-quality, affordable education.

We must find synergies that will create new learning opportunities, help reduce costs and enhance access to four-year baccalaureate and graduate degrees.

Toward that end, Northern Illinois University is beginning a dialog about legislation that would enable public state universities, community colleges and private universities in the northern Illinois region to combine voluntarily with NIU, resulting in a high-quality, low-cost education for students in a manner that provides clear, flexible routes to a baccalaureate degree.

The expanded university would create new educational opportunities at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels, as well as generate cost savings through shared services and operational synergies.

In addition, this reconfiguration of Illinois higher education would enable students to work toward select four-year degrees on their community college campuses or seamlessly transfer to the DeKalb campus for degree completion. This is in line with a policy objective that has been sought by community colleges that have desired the ability to offer bachelor’s degrees.

President Baker chats with a student Sept. 5, 2014, after the signing of a reverse-transfer agreement with the College of Lake County.

President Baker chats with a student Sept. 5, 2014, after the signing
of a reverse-transfer agreement with the College of Lake County.

This proposal is a logical outgrowth of my emphasis on the interdependence of educational entities across the continuum from pre-K through graduate and professional programs, and our focus on collaborative initiatives involving partners in K-12, higher education and regional industry such as our regional P-20 network. The initiative builds upon NIU’s commitment to student career success and augments existing articulation agreements between NIU and community colleges.

This new university model is in alignment with the Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success; would have a major impact on two-, four- and six-year graduation rates; and advances the goal that all residents have affordable access to high-quality educational opportunities that prepare them for their lives and careers by eliminating barriers and fostering innovative educational paths across all levels of higher education.

I will be in Springfield in the coming weeks to continue discussing this concept and exploring how the plan can benefit students and the economic vitality of the northern Illinois region. I’m looking forward to a robust dialogue.

Together Forward,