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September 6, 2011


“More education for more Illinoisans” will be theme of executive director’s speech

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois needs to ramp up its production of college graduates dramatically – particularly among students of color and from low-income backgrounds – if the state is to thrive in a global economy that is increasingly unforgiving of the undereducated.

That is the key message that Dr. G.W. Reid, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), will deliver to the Niagara Foundation Luncheon Forum in an address Thursday, September 8th, in Chicago. The Foundation is an organization devoted to serving “societal peace, love, and friendship wisely and compassionately in support of human dignity and the common good by striving to bring forth the common values of humanity; values such as understanding, tolerance, respect, and compassion.” The luncheon forum begins at noon in Suite 2540 of the Michigan Plaza at 205 N. Michigan Avenue.

In his remarks to the Foundation, Reid will discuss the Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success, the state’s 10-year blueprint for higher education, and emphasize the vital and urgent need for Illinois to produce more college grads. The IBHE adopted the Public Agenda in December 2008 after a year-long study aimed at identifying educational and economic challenges facing the state and devising strategies for confronting them. Reid was hired as executive director in December 2010 to speed up implementation of the plan.

“The Public Agenda has documented that there are two – not one – states of Illinois,” Reid will inform the audience. “One state is well-off, the other struggles to make ends meet; one state is highly educated, the other is underserved and underrepresented; one state is economically vibrant, the other economically stagnant.”

Between those two states of Illinois, Reid notes, is a “prosperity gap” that is large and widening and results from vast disparities in educational attainment by race, ethnicity, income, and geography. Reid points out that Illinois’ educational achievement gap is among the worst in the nation – and worsening.

“We must do better,” Reid will tell the Foundation audience. “Illinois is going in the wrong direction, and we must act now to stop the expanding gap and work to eliminate it.”

Reid notes Illinois is answering President Obama’s call to greatly increase educational attainment so the U.S. once again will lead the world in the proportion of its adult population with college credentials. The state has joined the national effort, led by Complete College America, to achieve the “60 X 25” Goal – meaning that 60 percent of adult Illinoisans will have a college degree or a vocational credential of marketable value by 2025.

He notes that the Illinois Public Agenda has  been the impetus for a series of actions led by the IBHE and other state agencies to improve educational attainment numbers, including efforts to improve college readiness, strengthen the quality of teachers and school principals, increase support and expand opportunities for adult learners, bolster student success though support services, and provide incentives to complete degrees. Reid also will explain to the audience the state’s effort to revamp the funding of colleges and universities through performance financing tied to degree completion and measurable academic progress toward a college credential.

Reid also will encourage the Niagara Foundation “to become a partner in the implementation of the Public Agenda – to bring greater diversity to higher education and erase the persistent and insidious achievement gap in Illinois – to move us along a pathway to One Illinois.

“One Illinois,” he states, “is a place where the pain of being poor is a distant memory.”


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