from the Illinois Board of Higher Education

January 26, 1999

Contact: Ross Hodel, 217/782-2551

Don Sevener, 217/782-3632


Board to Act on Illinois Commitment Strategic Plan

SPRINGFIELD - A citizen's agenda that commits colleges and universities to building partnerships, expanding opportunity, and achieving excellence will be considered by the Illinois Board of Higher Education next month. Board members will be asked to embrace The Illinois Commitment: Partnerships, Opportunity, and Excellence, a strategic plan to carry higher education into a new century with an emphasis on academic achievement and the pivotal role a college education plays in personal success and economic prosperity.

The Board meets February 2 at the Holiday Inn City Centre where it also will review plans for creating an alliance with other educational agencies to foster readiness of high school graduates for college, preparation of teachers for the classroom, and the use of technology to expand opportunities for learning. Board members will get an update on major technology initiatives and also a progress report on technological advancements for the new millennium.

At the top of the Board’s agenda is adopting the Illinois Commitment - six goals to guide the Board, colleges and universities, and other state leaders in setting policy and approving budgets for higher education.

"The Illinois Commitment sets a course to meet the educational needs and fulfill the aspirations that citizens have told us are important to them," Keith R. Sanders, Executive Director of the Board of Higher Education, says. "This strategic plan commits us to forge partnerships between higher education and business and between colleges and schools to ensure that all Illinoisans have an opportunity for a high quality education at an affordable cost."

The Illinois Commitment calls upon colleges and universities to help business and industry sustain strong economic growth; work with elementary and secondary schools to improve teaching and learning at all levels; ensure that no citizen is denied an opportunity for a college education because of financial need; increase the number and diversity of citizens completing training and education programs; raise expectations for student achievement; and improve productivity, cost-effectiveness, and accountability.

The Illinois Commitment, seven months in the making since being launched in July 1998 by the Board of Higher Education, reflects the views and values expressed by citizens, students, employers, opinion leaders, education officials, and state policy-makers through surveys, interviews, focus groups, formal and informal gatherings, and oral and written testimony.

As a strategic plan, the Illinois Commitment goes beyond broad goals to commit higher education to a specific action agenda. The plan commits higher education to:

"This Commitment will guide our thinking, our planning, and our actions well into the next century," Sanders said. "Each college and university will make its own unique contribution to achieving these strategic goals, but we all will be collectively accountable for achieving results."

In other action at its February meeting, the Board of Higher Education will be asked to endorse a "P-16 Partnership" with the State Board of Education and the Illinois Community College Board. The partnership - extending from preschool to college graduation - is aimed at raising learning standards at all levels of schooling, defining measures of student achievement, and assuring that every Illinois classroom has a qualified teacher and that every high school graduate is ready for college or the workforce.

The Board will act on $15 million in capital improvement technology grants to expand the Illinois Video Education Network, adding 77 new sites to the statewide system that bolsters distance learning and access to continuing education programs. More than 16,000 students enrolled in more than 800 courses via telecommunications in the 1997-98 academic year.

Board members also will review two reports relating to a major technology advance and a now-famous technology problem. A status report on the Illinois Century Network includes an update from an engineering task force estimating that first-year costs for developing the high-speed network to link all educational institutions in the state will be $25.9 million. Building the network, which will place Illinois at the forefront of harnessing technology for education, is envisioned to extend over three fiscal years, with second year construction costs projected at $31.6 million and third year costs of $35.7 million.

Higher education appears well positioned to accommodate the challenges presented by the "Y2K" problem - ensuring that computer systems and data banks turn the calendar in year 2000 with minimal disruption, according to a report Board members will receive. The report concludes that colleges and universities can handle the Year 2000 computer glitch "without significant disruption of key operations." But it also notes that "some institutions are more prepared than others which indicates that more work remains to be done."

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