Lower cost college degrees… Illinois about to do the right thing?

Illinois Legislature Voting on Bachelor’s Degrees at Community Colleges

After my May 8 blog entry about myopia in Arizona re options to lower the cost of higher education, there is news from the Chicago Tribune that Illinois has the chance to do the right thing and allow a community college to offer bachelor’s degrees for the first time.

Harper College is making a fifth attempt to win approval in the state legislature to offer two degree completion bachelor’s degrees for firemen and police officers who have completed associate’s degrees at the college. Previous efforts have passed the lower house but been defeated in the Illinois Senate by what the Tribune describes as “fierce opposition from four-year colleges and universities.”

Harper is optimistic that this year it will prevail. And it should.

Community Need Should Prevail Over 4-Year Sector Self-Interest

It is long past time for the 4-year sector to move past a self-serving opposition to allowing community colleges to offer 4-year degrees that are natural extensions of the 2-year degrees now available. In this case, tuition for the programs would be $8,000 and people enrolled in them would save time on money on commuting to another 4-year public university.

In the present economic circumstance, these are compelling reasons to grant approval in addition to demonstrated need for the programs.

Consider these points raised in opposition by lobbyists for 4-year sector schools and reported in the Tribune article:

    • “It would encroach on their mission,
    • “create duplicative, unnecessary programs, and
    • “fundamentally shift the structure of higher education in the state.”

What sounds especially silly is the comment from the Illinois Board of Higher education:

    • “Our fear is that by allowing Harper to offer bachelor’s degrees, they would be diluting the mission of community colleges,” said Don Sevener, a spokesman for the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Last time I looked, it was the mission of community colleges to serve the educational needs of their communities. How is that mission diluted by offering need-based 4-year degrees to residents of a community college district?

Let’s hope that the Illinois Senate does the right thing this time and shows Arizona the path to the future. 

That’s all for now.


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