That’s fine, U. of C., but ACT and SAT tests aren’t just for colleges

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A quick pop quiz: The University of Chicago surprised the education world when it decided to A) no longer require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores; B) move to Indiana; C) stop admitting students from Canada; or D) issue each student a comfort pet.

Did you choose A? Good.

In an effort to lower barriers to admission, U. of C. has become the first top-10 research university to make submitting standardized test scores optional. The school coupled its decision with a few other changes — including expanded financial aid and scholarship opportunities — to increase access for first-generation, low-income and minority students.

Instead, the university says it will take a “holistic” approach to its admissions decisions, focusing more on students’ essays, transcripts, letters of recommendation, video introductions and other nontraditional materials.

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June 19, 2018 at 05:57PM

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That’s fine, U. of C., but ACT and SAT tests aren’t just for colleges

IBHE eager to build on budget momentum

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Illinois’ governor and state lawmakers are taking a victory lap following passage of a state budget for fiscal year 2019.

Throughout the recent legislative session, the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) and college and university leaders called for a fair and predictable budget, so we joined the applause at the session’s checkered flag.

We also believe that celebratory lap should be a short one.

The increase in operating funds of 2 percent for Illinois’ public community colleges and universities is reasonable in the context of the state’s overall budgetary demands. The inclusion of a list of capital funding for priority construction projects and deferred maintenance is welcomed.

Maintaining the Monetary Award Program (MAP) funding at $401.3 million and giving priority access to MAP for returning students with financial need to reach graduation at Illinois’ public and private colleges is reassuring and essential to make their college dreams come true.

The establishment of the AIM HIGH grant program providing a total of $50 million ($25 million state funds matched by $25 million in tuition assistance scholarships from Illinois’ 12 public universities) sends a message that Illinois high school graduates with high academic honors needing additional financial aid are desired on our public universities’ campuses.

The budget brings much-needed stability and predictability to most colleges and universities while dimming the memory of political gridlock and the destructive budget impasses since 2016.

In sum, the budget reflects several steps forward but there are miles to go to fully restore the jewels in the crown of the Illinois higher education system.

The Higher Education Working Group, a bipartisan group of legislative leaders from both the House and Senate, should join with college and university leaders to focus on further improving affordability, access, innovation and state support — keys to halting Illinois’ brain drain.

IBHE will be happy to facilitate joint discussions beginning immediately, leading up to the start of a new legislative session in 2019.

We also will be strongly pushing for the release of capital funding for public colleges’ construction projects, many of which have been languishing for a half-decade, as well as emergency and safety-related capital renewal funding.

We are grateful that Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly followed and in some cases exceeded IBHE budget recommendations, and we remain eager to work with legislators and college and university leaders to build on our momentum.






Tom Cross is chairman and Al Bowman is executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

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June 16, 2018 at 06:59AM

IBHE eager to build on budget momentum

Higher education may be largely on the right track where you live

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Attending a grandson’s college commencement ceremony recently not surprisingly brought back memories of my own, although there’s no reason to be nostalgic because there is little evidence that my years in higher education were the “good old days.” These are quantitative comparisons, not qualitative.

Back in the 1960s the campus atmosphere went from an overwhelming liberal but genteel culture to heavy-handed domination by angry protesters bringing outright violence. Today the latter is too often the “norm,” even though many citizens outside the academy remain ignorant or mired in glowing imagery.

North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, with roughly 3,000 students, conferred more than 600 bachelor’s degrees and about 75 master’s degrees in an indoor ceremony last Saturday morning — fortunate because it rained during the exercises, though bright sunshine soon followed in the afternoon.

Despite the widespread turmoil and even derangement at too many of our colleges and universities, North Central is providing a decent education, at least for the foreseeable future, according to a philosophy professor I visited with. He is part of a three-person department, all of whom my grandson, Diego, whose home is in Naperville, took courses from.

Before we turn to that small unit, it is useful to examine the majors of the graduating students. They are scattered all over the place, with the social sciences a little less numerous than the humanities, but both swamped by others.

Of the majors most interesting to me, here are the figures: philosophy, two; political science, five; history two; education, four; and journalism, three. This is not unlike community colleges with their variegated offerings. (None of those majors, however, were found in North Central’s master’s program.)

Of course, what small departments may lack in disciplinary clout they can make up in close student-professor relations. Thus, there were philosophy courses, I was told, with only four students in them. Having had more than a little experience with small classes, I can confirm what one of my grandson’s professors told me, viz., no one can escape serious class participation.

The trio of philosophy professors with which I had the pleasure of extended conversation were clearly committed to their calling with no discernable political agenda, even if they surely have their own clearly articulated views. For them, I am convinced, the classroom is a place for the pursuit of the truth, open-minded investigation of all ideas, even unpopular ones, and the beginning of lifelong learning.

To be sure, the assistant vice president for external affairs, uttered the current pieties, viz. social justice, sustainability and inclusiveness, including praise of students for growing plants, but evidently a dogmatic devotion to them has not extended to all classrooms.

Harking again back to my college days, an equal or greater amount of learning took place outside the classroom, as my friends and I were avid readers of books and magazines and active in campus politics in the Young Republicans and Students Against Communism (as were our Democrat friends in their readings and activities).

At North Central, the philosophy club had been dormant for quite a while and was revived largely due to my grandson’s efforts. Once- or twice-monthly discussion meetings in time grew into often weekly meetings of considerably more students. These old and new instances of learning outside the classroom reflect students’ desire to maximize the college experience.

That broad and comprehensive learning of this sort can still be found on campus is certainly encouraging, of course. But its continuation, not to mention its intensity and seriousness, cannot be taken for granted. In our country’s history, discourse has descended to very low levels and Americans have seen themselves as enemies rather than friends. Unfortunately, in the academy there has been a century-long descent into intellectual and moral confusion.

In American history it took a combination of great leaders and a multitude of public-spirited citizens to end at least one evil at a time (monarchy in the Revolutionary War, chattel slavery in the Civil War, and legal and private racial segregation in the turbulent 1960s). We can pray that a long-needed rejuvenation of academic freedom someday will grace our institutions of higher learning.

Frankly, it is hard to believe that such a turnaround is possible, however desirable, as a purely pedestrian attitude among both faculty and students is as much of a problem as the headline-making rioting, suppression of free speech and enforcement of mindless dogmas.

In short, as the extraordinary British statesman Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” At North Central and perhaps a dozen campuses in the United States, serious inquiry still goes on, but its return and continuation depend, as ever, on human virtue.

Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow Community College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of "Taking Journalism Seriously: ‘Objectivity’ as a Partisan Cause" (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at rhreeb@verizon.net

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June 13, 2018 at 06:51AM

Higher education may be largely on the right track where you live

OUR VIEW: Funding MAP grants for 4 years a boost; but more needed

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THE ISSUE: Legislation is aimed to attract more students to Illinois universities
OUR VIEW: Proposal only a small part of issue; but much needed

Illinois lawmakers are finally catching on that it is a problem when high school grads enroll in well-funded universities, meaning those outside of Illinois. The bright young people don’t come back to Illinois to energize this workforce or pay taxes.

From 1991 to 2014, enrollment at Illinois public universities and community colleges decreased by 50,000 students. Since the 1960s, Illinois has been a net negative exporter of college students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The problem is increasing. In 2000 about one in six Illinois students attended college outside of the state, but by 2016 that doubled to one in three students.

A task force tackled the issue. So far they have learned Illinois students most often choose between Illinois universities and none of the above, meaning they stay home because they likely don’t have money for tuition. The most popular out-of-state destination is University of Alabama for Illinois exiles.

The Illinois Monetary Award Program, known as MAP grants, are one-year scholarships. One bill co-sponsored by State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, aimed to give students more of a guarantee the grants will be there for four years, not just one. That’s what out-of-state universities often offer.

"This legislation would give the same tool-kit to universities in Illinois when they make a pitch to students," Rezin said in a press statement. "That would help us compete for students."

The goal is worthy, because we need Illinois youths to contribute to their hometowns. It should help students choosing between an education, and nothing. But Illinois lawmakers are not done. There also will need to be a long-term strategy made. Then they need to stick to it.

Illinois universities for decades have been jerked in many directions by lawmakers. Demands for tuition control at the same time state funding is cut. The two-year budget impasse created a crisis with those MAP grants and left universities borrowing and cutting.

The pressure was felt at the junior college level as well with Illinois Valley Community College. The college committed necessary funds to its MAP grants program. The college also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for its endowment to support students in financial need — all while seeing its budget take a hit.

A solid plan, and a long-term commitment from state leaders to fund and set policy, would go a long way to making us attractive rather than repellent.

We’re happy to see data being used from the state’s task force and a first step taken in funding MAP grants for four years, but it’s treating the symptom, not the cause of the problem. And that goes back to funding our institutions.

This editorial was created by The Times using information and excerpts from an Associated Press-shared editorial produced by the Belleville News-Democrat

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June 8, 2018 at 09:33PM

OUR VIEW: Funding MAP grants for 4 years a boost; but more needed

Reverse onerous state cuts to higher education

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We applaud the Sun-Times’ focus on addressing the debt burden faced by too many of our college students and the ripple effect it has across families and communities.

Nivine Megahed, president of National Louis University, has rightly called for radically rethinking tuition structures and the business model for higher education. Larger public investment in our students is equally important.

A key factor contributing to increased student debt has been the decline in state investment in higher education by the General Assembly and governors of both parties. Thus, the burden of financing a college education has now been largely shifted to students and their families.

We must reverse the decline in the number of students receiving Illinois’ need-based student aid program, the Illinois Monetary Assistance Program award, and commit to funding the MAP award at a level that ensures that every student who qualifies receives the award. Funding must also ensure that the award covers the cost of tuition at the state’s public universities, as it did as recently as 2002.

While the recent budget passed by the Legislature is an important first step in reversing over a decade of disinvestment in higher education, much more is needed from our elected officials in order to lessen the financial burden of higher education on the state’s low-income and working class students. The health of our students and our state depends on it.

Kyle Westbrook, The Partnership for College Completion

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

Reckless attacks

Re: “U.S. clings to health coverage gains despite political drama [May 22], the Trump administration’s efforts to destabilize the Affordable Care Act will result in many of Illinois’ small businesses paying more for health insurance next year. The Congressional Budget Office said premiums for health care plans purchased through the ACA exchanges will rise by an average of 10 percent in 2019, thanks to the administration’s efforts to undermine the ACA as much as possible by proposing rules to expand association health plans and junk insurance plans, and by repealing the individual mandate. This news is devastating for small firms since more than 60 percent of ACA marketplace enrollees are small business owners, self-employed or small business employees.

This alarming rise also represents a reversal of the gains made under the ACA. Small businesses saw annual premiums grow by more than 10 percent on average from 2008-2010, but that rate dropped by half under the ACA. Small businesses and solo entrepreneurs can’t stay in business or retain quality employees if they can’t afford health insurance.

The administration must stop its reckless attacks on the ACA and do everything it can to stabilize the marketplaces to protect our small businesses.

Geraldine Aglipay, West Loop

Eleven presidencies

I have been alive for the presidencies of Truman through Trump. Granted, in the early years I wasn’t interested in politics as much as a bottle. Now I have come to realize that I need my pacifier back.

Robert Mitchell, Northlake

Crucial step

Senate Bill 2546 [to treat graduate students as employees with all associated protections] is a critical step forward in the fight to secure the rights of all Illinois working people — and to ensure that our work is regarded with the dignity and respect that it demands. If Gov. Bruce Rauner can discover within himself even a modicum of respect for a full day’s work, he will sign this legislation and extend that respect to the graduate researchers delivering groundbreaking innovations and boosting our state’s academic reputation.

Michael T. Carrigan President, Illinois AFL-CIO

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June 8, 2018 at 04:06PM

Reverse onerous state cuts to higher education

Rush to receive $45 million, its largest single donation ever, to help veterans with PTSD

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Rush University Medical Center will receive up to $45 million — its largest single donation ever — from the Wounded Warrior Project to provide mental health services to thousands of additional veterans.

Rush will put the cash toward its Road Home Program, which treats veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, depression, anxiety and related conditions at no cost to patients. The program, which also helps the families of veterans, has treated more than 1,000 people since launching in 2014. The new donation is expected to help Rush treat another 5,000 veterans and their family members over the next five years.

“We’re thrilled,” said Dr. Larry Goodman, CEO of Rush. “Besides the size of the donation, what it goes for is incredibly important. The services provided by the Road Home Program really treat those invisible injuries of war, which are unfortunately all too common in people returning from defending our country.”

The donation will help more than 1,500 veterans participate in a three-week intensive outpatient program at Rush, geared toward those with post-traumatic stress disorder who aren’t responding to standard treatments. As part of the program, groups of eight to 12 veterans from across the country receive more than 100 hours of treatment, including behavioral therapy, yoga, art therapy and acupuncture.

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June 5, 2018 at 10:30PM

Rush to receive $45 million, its largest single donation ever, to help veterans with PTSD

Lowering college tuition helps reduce student debt

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One of the best things about working in education is watching students, some from modest-income families, graduate and go on to work in careers that are meaningful, drive economic and social mobility, and ultimately improve communities.

This is the dream of higher education that inspires both students and educators. But this dream becomes a nightmare when young people pile up $60,000, $100,000 or even $140,000 in student debt as the Sun-Times reported in “A Generation Buried in Student Loan Debt” on June 3. It’s unsettling to see these young people weighed down with the anxiety of debt they may carry their entire lives.

OPINION

There is a better way. We must radically rethink the business model in general, and tuition specifically, so that students never encounter astronomical charges in the first place.

National Louis University put some bright minds on the task of designing a quality college degree program at a tuition of $10,000 per year. Tapping into instructional design, educational technology and good old-fashioned human support, they achieved it. Students can proceed through a carefully-engineered four-year program, called Pathways at NLU, and obtain a degree for $40,000. For underserved students, state and federal grants will cover the entire tuition resulting in zero debt.

A handful of universities around the nation are employing similar techniques, though Pathways is the only one to offer all of its innovative features. While most universities designed their programs to enable students from lower-earning families to go to college, anyone who wants to avoid heavy debt is welcome to enroll. The educational playing field is leveled so that every student has the opportunity to pursue a quality affordable education.

Many students see the appeal. The program launched in 2015 with 85 students, then grew to about 300 students the following year, about 800 this year and 1,200 next year. MSN Money reported National Louis University was the second-fastest growing university in the nation, in terms of student applications, because of it.

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So how does one design a college program for $10,000 per year? Pathways uses a recently-developed personalized adaptive learning system to allow students to learn at their own pace. They attend class on campus two full days per week, leaving the other days flexible for studying online and working. Each learner is assigned a student success coach for support, and all the coaches meet weekly to discuss each student’s progress. There are small class sizes, a defined series of courses and Career Bridge services to facilitate securing jobs after graduation.

This high-tech, high-touch approach has been rewarded with grants of more than $1 million each from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

That money will help National Louis to scale the program and someday offer it to other universities to replicate. We hope that students everywhere in the country who cannot afford to accrue significant debt will easily be able to earn a respected college degree for just $40,000. Instead of walking off a commencement stage with a heavy burden of loans, this allows a student to graduate carrying something light — a parchment diploma.

Nivine Megahed, Ph.D., is president of National Louis University, Chicago.

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June 5, 2018 at 03:02PM

Lowering college tuition helps reduce student debt