Lt. Governor Simon tours JJC

Continuing her Complete College Tour at the nation’s first public community college, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon visited Joliet Junior College Sept. 22 to hear how educators are working to raise completion rates and connect students to the workforce.
Simon announced earlier this year that Illinois leaders want to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates to 60 percent from 41 percent by 2025. As the Governor’s point person on education reform, she is touring the state’s 48 community colleges to see completion efforts at each campus, while also compiling ideas to overcome the barriers to completion goals.
“We need to improve our higher education system today so that the next generation of students can graduate on time, with less debt and ready to fill the jobs of tomorrow,” Simon said.
The college highlighted a high school articulation partnership that brings teachers and JJC faculty together to align curriculum and a mathematics problem repository that provides teachers access to high-level math questions. The efforts are meant to improve college readiness as only 23 percent of ACT-tested 2011 high school graduates in Illinois met all college-ready benchmarks in English, reading, math and science.
In order to create a more seamless transition to four-year universities JJC is working on transfer agreements, including a dual degree program with Governors State University (GSU) that provides students guaranteed admission to GSU and the ability to lock in tuition rates for four years.
”The full energy of JJC is working to implement successful programs that graduate a higher percentage of qualified students, and our articulation partnership with GSU helps that tremendously,”  said JJC Interim President Dr. Frank Zeller.
In order for the state to reach its “60 by 2025” goal, Illinois’ postsecondary institutions must increase the number of graduates statewide by 4,400 students each year, for a total of 600,000 additional graduates by 2025.
To do so, Simon says schools need to reform how they deliver remedial education and handle transfer students. She also serves on the state’s performance funding committee, which is creating a system to tie state higher education dollars to completion milestones and graduation.
“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,” Simon said.
Joliet Junior College, established in 1901, is the first public community college in the nation. Six students made up the college’s initial class; today, JJC serves more than 47,000 students in credit and non-credit courses annually. JJC marks the 30th stop on Simon’s Complete College tour. 

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