The leaders of Illinois’ community college establishment largely agree with the lieutenant governor’s suggestions for improvement. The lieutenant governor says four out of five students who enroll in community college don’t complete their degree or certificate. Geoffrey S. Obrzut, president of the Illinois Community College Board, says it’s not that simple.
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“We take in a lot of students who come for just one or two courses for self-improvement or they might want to improve their careers from a jobs point of view, so they only take two or three classes, so those are other things we have to take into account,” he said. Otherwise, he agrees that community colleges must make sure that students are getting value for the college dollar and that the colleges are teaching skills that employers want. He says it will take some time to implement change, but he believes the report is well intended. The report was issued after Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon visited all 40 community colleges in Illinois. It recommended improving the completion rate – the rate at which students who enroll end up with a degree or a certificate – now at 20 percent if students are given three years, improving students’ readiness for math by requiring a fourth year of math in high school, and issuing report cars on the schools, so that the community and prospective students can see the success rate of existing students. Illinois Community College Board Chairman Alexi Giannoulias – the former state treasurer – says the board members have already read the lieutenant governor’s report. He is quick to agree that high school students should be required to take a fourth year of math, though he says it may take time for the state Board of Education to make that change.