CENTRALIA – Looking for ways to improve college completion rates, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon brought her Complete College Tour to Kaskaskia and Rend Lake Colleges today to hear about programs in place that aim to help students earn a degree or certificate.
“Community colleges are well known as cost- and time-effective locations to earn a valuable degree or certificate,” Simon said. “As community college enrollment continues to increase, we must work to ensure that students are provided with the necessary resources to complete their coursework and walk across the stage at graduation and into an Illinois workplace.”
As announced earlier this year, Simon’s goal is to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates to 60 percent from 41 percent by 2025. Simon is touring the state’s 48 community colleges to see completion efforts at each campus, while also compiling ideas to overcome the barriers to each college’s completion goals.
“Illinois is serious about increasing college course, certificate and degree completion,” Simon told students, faculty and administrators during a roundtable discussion. “I want to work with all Illinois community colleges to foster continued student success so our state can produce the best educated workforce in the nation.”
At Kaskaskia College, Simon learned about the school’s efforts to connect students with needed resources before students even enter the classroom. One such program is the New Student Orientation that students are invited to attend with their parents to learn about the college’s career fairs, job placement opportunities and skills workshops. Just by participating and learning about the college’s resources, orientation attendees earn an average GPA nearly a half point higher than non-attendees. The Success Center, another resource at Kaskaskia, uses various tools to track student progress and trigger extra assistance when needed to ensure students are able to stick to their completion timeline.
“We were honored to have the opportunity to host Lt. Governor Sheila Simon at Kaskaskia College this morning,” Kaskaskia College President Jim Underwood said. “Her unique understanding and support of Illinois community colleges provides a bright ray of hope as we strive to meet the aggressive yet attainable goal she has set for completion rates by the year 2025. Her continued efforts to secure much needed funding as well as her recognition of the value of associate degree and certificate completion at Kaskaskia and other Illinois community colleges are essential to continued growth and success.”
Simon continued her tour at Rend Lake and learned that half of its students test into developmental math or reading classes. In response, the school has implemented a College Prep Cohort program to provide essential teaching and support services to its students. Tutors are available in the classroom to address student questions in real-time, while additional tutoring services are available for free at the Learning Enhancement Center. Since the program’s inception in 2004 until the latest available data in 2008, completion rates of these students have increased 11 percentage points.
“I believe, if we have a recipe for success, it’s a concerted effort to focus on the needs of our students,” said Rend Lake College President Charley D. Holstein. “In terms of graduation rates, we rank second among public two-year colleges in the state of Illinois and in the top 10 percent nationwide, according to a study recently released by the Aspen Institute.”
Kaskaskia and Rend Lake Colleges were the 14th and 15th stops on the tour.