Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon says the state plans to make sure more people graduate college by 2025.
Right now, Simon says about 41% of Illinois adults of working age have a degree. In a plan to up the number to 60%, Simon suggests more access to college programs, affordable tuition, and making it easier for students to finish college.
John Wood Community College Student Rebecca McCollum says while she's nearly done at John Wood, it can sometimes be difficult for students to keep their eye on that degree.
"It can be very difficult," said McCollum. "You get going with school or extra-curricular activities."
One of Simon's proposals would let students enroll in community college and a university simultaneously, something McCollum is already doing.
This allows them to get through with lower rates and that it would make it easier when they transition to full-time status in the university.
"I'm going to go from here to Western. It gives me that sense of security that I know that I'm locked in at a specific tuition and that when I leave here I don't have to compete with somebody else as much for scholarships," said McCollum.
McCollum says the TRIO program at John Wood partners with Illinois Western University and she was already able to lock-in her tuition rates, so she has saved even more money by going to a community college.
Simon met with students, teachers, and administrators in the state's 12 universities last fall, which is where she said she discovered the elements in this plan.
Students like Rebecca know before they ever take the class that it is going to be accepted and thee will be no headaches when it comes to getting those classes to transfer over.
John Wood Community College Public Relations and Marketing Director Tracy Orne says she thinks Simon is building on what's working already and encouraging schools to improve what's not. The biggest thing, she says, can be the cost.
"Students who choose to attend John Wood Community College are looking for that value," said Orne. "It's more affordable. And making sure that they don't have enormous student loan debt as well.
There are Pell and Map grants and other forms of financial aid, but a Monetary Award Program Task Force Report released just a couple months ago shows that MAP's potential impact has diminished in recent years.
Lt. Gov. Simon calls this plan "Game-Changing," both in name and in what she says it would do. She says her goal is to put degrees in the hands of more Illinois residents.
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