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Reforming higher education

Two Republican lawmakers have introduced changes to Illinois’ higher education system designed to increase enrollment and keep students in state.

On September 25, Senator Chapin Rose of Mahomet and Representative Dan Brady of Normal started what they intend to be a thoughtful and bipartisan conversation about reforming the state’s higher education system, with the introduction of Senate Bill 2234.

The goals of the Higher Education Strategic Centers of Excellence Plan are to address the increasing numbers of Illinois students attending college outside Illinois, make the state’s higher education system more efficient, and save taxpayer dollars by directing resources to the strengths of each institution.

The plan was proposed in direct response to Illinois’ continued history of higher education enrollment decline, which dropped by 50,000 students between 1991 and 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The proposal’s strategy relies on changes to the admissions process in Illinois that would help boost enrollment at the 12 public universities in Illinois. The plan would create a uniform admission application to be accepted at all public institutions of higher education. The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) would then forward that student’s common application to other public universities whose acceptance standards are in line with the student’s qualifications and who have programs and areas of study that the student wishes to enroll in. The plan would also have the IBHE create an economic efficiency review of each campus and rank the top eight academic departments/programs statewide, and study academic program expansions, eliminations, and programs with low enrollment.

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