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November 29, 2004


SPRINGFIELD - Illinois higher education is performing well. And can do better.

Those are the conclusions of the Statewide Performance Report to be presented to the Illinois Board of Higher Education at its December 7 meeting at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

For example, the report notes that Illinois colleges and universities produce a growing number of graduates in a broad array of fields, thus strengthening the pool of college-educated individuals for the state's workforce. However, it also worries that the higher education system will be challenged to attract and retain the necessary intellectual capital for the state to remain economically competitive when Illinois ranks third in the nation in net migration of college freshmen who leave the state to study elsewhere.

The Performance Report, first adopted by the Board in February 2003, is an accountability mechanism that gives a detailed mural of success and shortcomings, at both the state and campus levels. The report examines institutional and state performance through the six goals of The Illinois Commitment, the higher education strategic plan, including the contribution of higher ed to the state's economic well-being, student academic success, affordability, access and diversity, and productivity. The specific indicators include such measures as the number of college graduates in different fields of study, research expenditures at doctoral institutions, percentage of undergraduates receiving financial aid, the number of students completing teacher certification, graduation rates, trends in ethnic/racial college completions, and costs per credit hour.

The report highlights both strengths and challenges. For instance, on affordability, the report states that "while the proportion of Illinois students receiving some form of financial assistance continues to grow, so does the cost of attendance relative to income." And while grants and scholarships are being targeted to the neediest students, recent trends reveal growing numbers of eligible students denied aid due to funding constraints and rising college costs.

Similarly, the report notes that the number and diversity of students completing degree programs has increased over time at all levels and across all sectors of Illinois higher education. At the same time, given the projected increase in the number and diversity of Illinois high school graduates in coming years, all colleges and universities will need to have in place strategies to ensure that all Illinois students have an opportunity to succeed in their pursuit of a college education.

The Statewide Performance Report contains a wealth of information with specific, quantifiable measures for state performance as well as institutional performance for all sectors of Illinois higher education.

At their meeting next week, Board members also are expected to act on appointment of a program board to oversee the new Diversifying Faculty in Illinois Higher Education Program. The new endeavor consolidates two minority graduate fellowship programs with the goal of improving placement of minority graduates in Illinois faculty positions.


Don Sevener



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