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Lt. Governor Simon's Listening Tour Comes to Highland Community College
10/6/2011

FREEPORT � A Highland Community College panel consisting of faculty, staff and students addressed Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon this Wednesday on matters ranging from academic and student success initiatives to performance-based funding measures for higher education. Highland was the 47th stop on Simon�s �Complete College Tour,� a statewide listening tour of all 48 community colleges.


Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon addresses Highland panelists.

While serving as the governor�s point person for education, Simon also mentioned her personal connection to campuses as the spouse of a community college instructor. She stressed the importance of gathering and sharing the most innovative data from each community college during her tour as Illinois leaders push for 60 percent of the adult population to attain a certificate or degree by 2025. funny dog pictures

�We have enough students entering community colleges and universities in Illinois to have a world-class workforce, but too many students are dropping out before they earn the degree or certificate that makes a difference,� Simon said. �As a state, we need to do more to make sure more students who walk in the door of a college, walk out with a meaningful credential that leads to a good-paying job.�

Highland panelists expressed their commitment to providing relevant programs that not only meet the long-term goals of students, but also workforce development goals. The wind turbine technician and Northern Illinois Online Initiative for Nursing (NIOIN) program representatives discussed how employer demand guided the curriculum. As wind turbine technician program instructor Dave Vrtol explained, the wind �industry is realizing they have a choice� with regard to Highland�s program, the first of its kind in the state. funny pictures

Addressing Simon�s questions about remedial course delivery methods, Carolyn Petsche, director of learning services, highlighted successes from the pilot Fast Forward summer bridge math program. Participating students brushed up on math skills with the hope of retaking a placement test and moving into a higher level of math. Simon agreed programs such as Fast Forward have the potential to decrease time to degree by eliminating non-credit bearing coursework and can cost students less. funny images

College representatives continued to cite improvements that will increase overall completion rates and student involvement by encompassing the whole college experience. In particular, the new Early Alert program was touted as a way to identify students struggling academically and behaviorally. The early intervention by advisors and other staff will allow more students to take advantage of campus support services. Also referenced was a pilot program for African-American male students which yielded very favorable results and as participant LaDarius Stewart remarked, was �an eye-opener.�

�Efforts supporting students as they begin their program go a long way towards improving their chances of completion,� said Highland President Joe Kanosky. funny photos

Recognizing the diverse goals of students, Simon was also encouraged to hear about the addition of an honors program which allows students to complete upper-level, project-based courses. Transfer student Chelsey Kaiser explained how it has afforded her an �opportunity to stand out� from her peers and gain admission into more selective four-year programs.

Following the roundtable discussion, Simon and her staffed toured Highland�s Ray and Betty Stamm Health Science Nursing Wing and Wind Turbine Technician Training Center. Both facilities were completed in 2009 to provide dedicated space and technology to train students in these high demand fields.

After reporting her findings to the General Assembly this winter, Simon will be instrumental in helping the system to tie state higher education dollars to completion milestones as a member of the state�s performance funding committee. She acknowledged the panelists� concerns that measures should be adjusted to reflect the unique open-door policy of community colleges.

�We have a funding system now that rewards enrollment, and we need to shift that to reward course completions, graduation and other markers of progress and success,� said Simon.


Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon (left) receives an explanation on global wind patterns from Highland Community College�s Dave Vrtol, wind turbine technician instructor.



_________________________
OFFICE OF COMMUNITY RELATIONS
2998 W. Pearl City Road
Freeport, IL 61032-9341

815-235-6121
Fax 815-235-6130



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