Community Colleges Look at Possibility of 4-Year Degrees

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

WSIL -- A group of college presidents is studying whether Illinois community colleges should be allowed to offer four-year degrees. More than 20 other states already have such policies.


The plan made it through the Illinois House in 2007 but then stalled. However, a community college from the Chicago area hopes to bring up the issue again. Community college presidents have formed a committee to look into whether the plan could work.


John A. Logan College President Mike Dreith is in that group. The school offers more than 100 programs from its Carterville campus and reaches about 7,000 students a year.


"You know we try to find degrees that lead to a paycheck," said Dreith.


Dreith isn't sure the school would do well venturing into the four-year track.


"We wouldn't want to do anything to compete with SIU," he explained.


Dreith feels like Logan has built a good partnership with SIU, helping students get their associates degrees and then transfer to Carbondale.


"It's getting better all the time," said Dreith. "SIU has put a full-time person on our staff here to be a liaison between us and SIU."


However, there may be some opportunity to provide four-year degrees for majors that aren't available or don't have enough space. One example would be the limited space in SIU's Bachelor's of Science Nursing program.


"They either leave the area or they get it from McKendree, which offers it here on our campus," said Dreith.


Students signing up for the fall semester at John A. Logan College believe adding bachelor's programs could be a good move.


"I'm really hoping to work with social work, helping kids," said student Timothy Young.


Young chose the community college because it was cheaper and close to home. He plans to finish his criminal justice degree at Missouri Baptist University.


"SIU offers a fantastic one," said Young. "But it's just not what I want."


Breana Smith would gladly stay put for a four-year nursing program. She likes the feel of her smaller community college.


"It depends on the person," said Smith. "So it might be good for me, but it might not be good for somebody else."


Another issue to figure out would be funding. Dreith says right now community colleges get money from tuition, local property taxes, and the state. He's not sure that formula would stand if they start offering four-year degrees.
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