SIU is working with a statewide board to improve Illinois higher education.
The Illinois Board of Higher Education has several goals for public institutions to help students receive a college education in an affordable and timely manner. SIU President Glenn Poshard said many of IBHE’s goals are being pursued by the university.
During November’s SIU Board of Trustees meeting, Paul Sarvela, vice president of academic affairs, said he has seen some programs reduce the required credit hours to
graduate. This change falls in line with IBHE’s goal to reduce the amount of credit hours students take at state universities.
Poshard said the university would take steps to follow the board’s public agenda.
“(The board) put together what they considered to be the four greatest problems facing the state of Illinois,” Poshard said. “Their concern was that Illinois ranked far below the most educated U.S. states in educational attainment.”
One problem concerns students who are left behind by the state’s education system, he said. Some students drop out to join the workforce, and other students need additional training to perform work-related duties, Poshard said.
To fix the issue, the IBHE established a goal to increase educational attainment to match the best performing states, he said.
Poshard said one way to achieve the goal is to eliminate achievement gaps between students of different race, ethnicity and socio- economic status.
“For the kids that are falling behind in any of these areas, they need to be able to catch up,” Poshard said. “That’s been part of the discussion.”
Students from rural areas and inner cities are behind in educational attainment compared to suburban school districts, he said.
The second problem is cuts to secondary education, Poshard said. In 2002, SIU received state appropriations worth $248 million. This year, the university will receive $203 million, he said.
“The state has not only cut back on the amount of money they give us to operate our universities, but they’ve also cut back on student grants and loans,” Poshard said. “They have delayed payments up to six months.”
Another IBHE goal ensures college affordability for students, he said.
“SIU Carbondale has kept tuition and fees lower than any of the major public (and private) research universities in the state,” Poshard said. “We have sought to attain that goal by keeping our education at SIU Carbondale affordable.”
The state’s need for more degree
holders is yet another problem IBHE plans to handle.
“Our goal is to make sure we are meeting the economic demands by expanding the number of people who receive degrees,” Poshard said.
The university is concentrating on online and off-campus education, he said, to reach people in some of these areas where they can’t travel to the university itself.
The state’s economy is yet another problem IBHE is dealing with.
“What the state IBHE has told us is we need to better integrate our education research and innovation in the universities to the areas surrounding them,” Poshard said. “We have taken a leadership role at SIU in doing this in many ways.”
He said much of the university’s research is geared toward agriculture and business.
“That’s what we’ve tried to do — reach out to the surrounding area and help them in whatever
way possible,” Poshard said. “The chancellor is doing a very good job in all four of these areas.”
Allan Karnes, associate dean of the College of Business and IBHE member, said IBHE does not tell SIU what to do, but the board’s primary responsibility is to approve college programs. If SIU wanted to offer a business journalism degree, for example, IBHE would look at offered courses and see if it meets minimum standards.
“We spend a good part of our time looking at these degree proposals,” he said.
Karnes said the IBHE works with four different types of colleges — community colleges, public universities, not-for-profit private universities and for-profit private universities.