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November 30, 2000

Illinois Makes Top Grades in National Higher ED Report Card


SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan announced today that Illinois placed first among all the states in the first-ever report card grading higher education across the nation.

Governor Ryan noted that Illinois' average grade, calculated by the Illinois State Board of Higher Education, placed it first among the top states in Measuring Up 2000, a state-by-state report card released today by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, an independent nonprofit think tank for postsecondary education issues.

"Illinois has made a strong commitment and wise investments in higher education, and it is paying off," Governor Ryan said, noting that this fiscal year the state has committed more than $8 billion for education and job training. That represents a $462 million increase, one of the largest education increases in Illinois history.

The National Center report card graded states' higher education systems on six broad categories of performance measures: preparation for college, participation in higher education, affordability, degree completion, the benefits of higher education, and learning. Illinois' average score for all grades ranked first among all states.

Illinois achieved A's for preparation, participation, and affordability; a B- in benefits; and a C+ in completion rates. All states were given an "incomplete" for measurements of learning, the National Center said, because information to make definitive judgments on a state-by-state basis is not available.

"This record is a fine tribute to our colleges and universities. But it also is a testament to the leadership of our state boards, the General Assembly, and this Administration." The Governor noted that Illinois higher education had received record appropriations for operations and capital spending in his budgets. He also pointed to support for a variety of initiatives aimed at expanding access to college and promoting affordability, including the Illinois Century Network and other technology projects, the University Center of Lake County, and increases in needs-based financial aid.

The Governor also praised the efforts of the state's teachers and Illinois students.

"This report card shows our kids today are working harder and that they are smarter than ever before. I congratulate them all," Gov. Ryan said.

"We are gratified to receive this positive reinforcement for the top-notch job Illinois higher education has done," Philip J. Rock, Chairman of the Board of Higher Education, said. "We in higher education are grateful to the Governor and state lawmakers for their commitment to keeping higher education affordable and accessible to the citizens of Illinois."

Edward Duffy, Chairman of the Illinois Community College Board, said, "It is noteworthy that the top grades for the state were in areas that community colleges make a significant contribution - giving students access to low-cost education that prepares them well to continue their studies or to enter the workforce."

Governor Ryan noted that the National Center report card ranked Illinois among the top states in the level of preparation of students for college, particularly in the high proportion of Illinois young adults who earn a high school diploma or its equivalent. And Illinois is the best-performing state in the nation in the proportion of high school juniors and seniors who score well on college entrance exams.

Illinois also scored well in participation rates in higher education, and is the top-performing state in providing college-level education and training opportunities for its working-age adults, which underscores the commitment to meeting the needs of a growing number of nontraditional students.

Illinois' Monetary Award Program, administered by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, is the third-largest needs-based student financial aid program in the country, which helped make Illinois the top performer in the nation in helping low-income students afford to go to college.

Keith R. Sanders, Executive Director of the Board of Higher Education, hailed the report card as an objective, independent assessment of higher education, but said Illinois would not rest on its laurels. "We are delighted with the recognition of our efforts in affordability and expanding access to college," Sanders said. "But once we get students in the door, we must intensify our efforts to get them through with a degree, which is increasingly vital for success in today's economy. And we also know that we must do more to ensure that all students leave high school well-prepared to encounter the rigors of college academic life."

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education plans to issue report cards evaluating higher education on a state-by-state basis every two years. Development of the National Center's report card was supported by grants from various foundations, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.


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