from the Illinois Board of Higher Education
July 8, 1998
Contact: Ross Hodel, 217/782-2551
New Century Planning Initiative Launched for Higher Education
HOFFMAN ESTATES - The Illinois Board of Higher Education has launched a major planning initiative designed to carry colleges and universities into a new century with a Citizens Agenda that focuses on the consumers of higher education - students, employers, and taxpayers.
The Board voted without dissent Tuesday to embrace eight strategic goals proposed by Executive Director Keith Sanders as the first step in a process to engage a broad range of citizen involvement in preparing a new century agenda for the state's colleges and universities.
"This is very much a work in progress," Sanders told the Board in introducing the plan. "It contains some old friends such as access, affordability, underrepresented groups, quality, and productivity, and some new ideas elevated to the status of important strategic goals, such as educational attainment, responsiveness of institutions to consumers, and strengthening the relationship with our K-12 colleagues."
The Board's action Tuesday formally set in motion a series of surveys and other mechanisms to measure satisfaction with colleges and universities and their graduates and to identify the most pressing needs of students and employers and ways higher education can help meet them. Surveys will be conducted of graduating seniors, employers, the general public, and opinion leaders.
To get the dialogue started, Sanders set forth eight preliminary strategic goals:
Using evidence showing that higher levels of education result in greater economic and social prosperity, the preliminary plan urges efforts to increase the number of people who graduate from high school and who obtain post-secondary degrees.
The plan proposes to expand access to a college degree for those who may be at a stage in life where they seek to return to school to upgrade skills or to further job opportunities, as well as to place-bound students for whom geography is a barrier.
Sanders' proposal suggests that cost should not prevent Illinoisans from gaining a college degree.
Demographic trends show that minorities will make up an increasing proportion of state's population, and the strategic plan recommends renewed efforts to promote greater enrollments of underrepresented groups and their success in college.
Sanders has urged that higher education hold its students to higher expectations, supply the help students need to reach those expectations, test them for their performance in meeting the standards, and use the results of assessments to improve curricula and instruction.
The proposal suggests that colleges and universities must respond to the changing needs of students and employers with targeted, cost-effective programs that are tailored to new market conditions.
Because the success of students in college is rooted in their schooling from kindergarten through high school, Sanders' proposal urges a stronger partnership between colleges and universities and elementary and secondary schools. Noting that the need for remediation at the college level is a symptom of poor academic preparation, the plan states that colleges and universities share responsibility for the performance and success of students at all levels of education.
Colleges and universities have made significant strides in improving productivity during the 1990s through the Priorities, Quality, and Productivity Initiative. Sanders calls upon them to build on those gains to help ensure adequate resources are available for higher education's most valued priorities.
Board members suggested they want the ultimate plan to be a forceful expression of an agenda that will serve the public. "I don't want the document to be watered down to please everybody," Board Chairman Jerry D. Blakemore said. And Board member Robert English urged that the plan take on a sharper focus as it is developed into an agenda "that will be the Board's mantra."
Sanders said the Board would not act on a final Citizens Agenda until December, "so we have time for a long and thoughtful discussion of these strategic goals." In addition to commissioning opinion surveys, the Board will engage business leaders, civic organizations, representatives and trustees from public and private colleges and universities, advisory groups, and others in critiquing, analyzing, and refining the Citizens Agenda initiative.