from the Illinois Board of Higher Education

June 24, 1998

Contact: Ross Hodel, 217/782-2551


Board to Consider Citizen's Agenda for Higher Education

Seeking to put the customers of colleges and universities at the center of higher education, the Illinois Board of Higher Education will consider creating a "Citizens' Agenda" to tackle the emerging needs of a new century at its July 7 meeting at Northern Illinois University's Hoffman Estates Center.

The Board also will act on recommendations to establish a World Wide Web site offering a virtual information kiosk for consumers of higher education and to address the shortage of workers in information technology; Board members will discuss revisions to the process for constructing the fiscal 2000 budget for Illinois colleges and universities.

Executive Director Keith Sanders will ask the Board to launch a dialogue on a master planning initiative built on eight strategic goals aimed at redefining the public purposes of higher education. "These goals, still in a preliminary stage of development, will help us make higher education relevant and responsive to the people of Illinois at a time when all trends tell us education will become increasingly vital to economic security and quality of life of all citizens," Sanders said.

The goals proposed as a starting point for the initiative are:

In a related matter, the Board will hear an update of its study of higher education in Lake County focusing on feedback from employers about their satisfaction with existing programs and graduates and future needs.

Meetings with a variety of employers in the north suburban area from several different fields revealed some common themes about the preparation and quality of graduates seeking employment: the need for employees who are better prepared in communications, problem-solving, creativity, and ethics; a willingness to participate in identifying educational needs of the area and to become partners with higher education institutions in meeting those needs; a concern about the ability to recruit a broadly educated and diverse workforce; a shortage of well-trained applicants for jobs in information technology and systems analysis; and support for new approaches to instruction, including increased use of technology.

In other action, the Board will be asked to endorse a plan for an Internet-based consumer information system. The Web site would be designed to be an entry point for consumers needing authoritative and accurate information about higher education opportunities and services. As envisioned, the system will orient consumers to higher education in Illinois, post warnings about active "diploma mills," advise students how to find a college that is suitable for their needs, offer links to higher education programs and services, supply comparative information about Illinois institutions, and seek feedback from consumers about needs and experiences.

On another matter related to technology, the Board will act on a recommendation that it give priority in developing next year's budget to programs expanding opportunities in the field of information technology, where a shortage of workers is plaguing employers. A report on the issue notes that despite increased enrollments in such disciplines as computer science, programming, and management information programs, the number of degrees granted has declined. The report also cites national studies that have discovered a "mismatch" between what universities teach and what industry needs. Employment projections suggest a growing need for specialists in information technology, and the report urges that colleges and universities scrutinize their programs to ensure they meet employers' needs as well as working among themselves and with the private sector to provide a "career ladder approach" to meet the growing demand.

Also related to the fiscal 2000 budget is a report outlining a revised process for developing budget recommendations for colleges and universities as they enter the new century. The Board will review a proposal for new budget procedures, including development of a document known as the "Statewide Budget Context" that will guide institutions in matching budget requests to state strategic goals and initiatives.