• Give Education a Regional Voice

    Nov 14, 2016

    St. Louis Regional Higher Education Commitment
    (pictured above): Higher Education leaders from across the region review the St. Louis Regional Higher Education Compact. View the Compact

    Greater educational attainment is the surest path to economic prosperity.  This is a message that business leaders in the St. Louis region have been articulating for years.  Finding the right talent is a key concern of employers and there is a strong business case for investing in education as it has net positive benefits for the community overall.  Education is also essential for individuals pursuing economic opportunity and it leads to greater civic engagement.  As a region, we are better off with more people able to successfully access and complete a college degree.

    That is why a diverse group of leaders from across the community came together this summer to forge the St. Louis Regional Education Commitment, a shared community agenda to see St. Louis become a top ten region for educational attainment by 2025.  Taking a student-centered approach, the Commitment focuses on how to increase the attainment level of the community by better supporting, attracting, and retaining students along five pathways: current students, recent college graduates, working adults, the unemployed or underemployed, and veterans. 

    Leaders who know these student populations best worked together to identify clear and measurable strategies that will better support them.  Leaders in higher education, business, and youth-serving organizations also identified the overarching solutions that will foster the kind of systemic change necessary to support people along a number of pathways to greater degree attainment.  Making college more accessible and affordable, creating a system of seamless credit transfer, and fostering greater collaboration between higher education and business are just a few of the strategies that will reduce barriers and increase the likelihood that students complete college at faster rates.

    In the last few months, the St. Louis Regional Education Commitment has been endorsed by eighteen regional higher education institutions, a core group of business leaders, and various other student-serving networks and organizations, including Full Circle and St. Louis Graduates.

    The drafting of the Commitment is timely. Today, there are clear disparities in educational outcomes along racial and economic lines.  Aid available to support students is less at a time when college costs are rising. A number of students and families are considering whether a college degree will lead to meaningful employment prospects and whether a degree is worth the investment.

    In the face of these challenges, leaders in St. Louis are resolute in their commitment to greater educational attainment. More importantly, they are working together to ensure that a college education is not out of reach, that we are aggressive in confronting the racial and economic achievement gap, and that more young people are supported in their journey to and through college. 

    While there is much work to be done, there are many exciting efforts under way that will give education the regional voice it deserves.  It will take more partners, more dedication of resources, and a commitment to improve policy and practice in support of students.  Now, more than ever, it is time to define our destiny as a region and to collaborate in pursuit of a goal and common agenda that will improve lives.  Let greater educational attainment be a north star in moving forward boldly. 

    St. Louis Regional Higher Education Commitment group
    (pictured above) Higher Education leaders gather after the approval of the St. Louis Regional Higher Education Compact.

  • Illinois Public Affairs Network Discusses Funding Challenges in Higher Education

    Jul 28, 2016

    Leaders in higher education in Southwest Illinois spoke to a full room of Illinois Public Affairs Network members on Friday, July 15th at the Doubletree Hotel in Collinsville. Dr. Randy Dunn, President of the Southern Illinois University System, and Ken Scheffel, Vice President of Enrollment Services at Lewis and Clark Community College spoke to the budget challenges higher education institutions in Illinois are facing.  Sen. Dave Luechtefeld spoke to higher education funding from the legislature’s perspective and provided a legislative update.

    Kent Scheffel spoke to the impact of delayed and reduced funding from the state on Lewis and Clark Community College.  He cited a number of examples, including reducing the number of adjunct faculty by more than 30, which in turn reduced more than 60 class offerings and creates challenges for students.  Adult education classes have been cut, as has travel and supply budgets, and the school is in a semi-hiring freeze.

    Dr. Randy Dunn echoed many of the sentiments shared by Kent, and spoke to three major ways they are impacted, through dismantling, disinvestment, and disinterest.  He noted that the funding cuts and delays have led to a dismantling of their organizational infrastructure, disinvestment in the schools and in the communities they serve, and disinterest from students.  Both speakers noted that it was tough to watch the migration of students from Illinois to other states.  MAP grant applications are down by 18,000 and SIUE growth will slow next year, both indications of Illinois students going to colleges and universities in other states.

    Senator Luechtefeld gave some context, that higher education has faced significant cuts over the last three governors’ administrations.  It made it tough for them to be cut repeatedly, then hit with a budget crisis and state higher education institutions don’t have any spare resources to deal with it.

    Dr. Randy Dunn, President of the Southern Illinois University System speaks to the July IPAN meeting as fellow panelist Kent Scheffel of Lewis and Clark Community College looks on
    Dr. Randy Dunn, President of the Southern Illinois University System speaks to the July IPAN meeting as fellow panelist Kent Scheffel of Lewis and Clark Community College looks on.