Board expands programs of study available to University students

By Brittney Foreman

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Board of Higher Education made motions to improve the opportunity for a higher level of education at the University. To support their clear vision, perhaps signified by the crystal chandeliers that hung from the ceiling, they approved four additions to the University campus today in Springfield.

In Salons A and B of the ballroom at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center the board passed a motion that will permit the University to have a bachelor’s of science program in LAS in Earth System, Environment and Society.

The program, which deputy director Gary Alexander said would be the only program of its kind in Illinois and one of few in the nation, will be housed in the newly approved school of Earth, Society and Environment (SESE). SESE will include the existing departments of atmospheric science, geography and geology at the University.

The board also approved a University school of literatures, cultures and linguistics which will offer more than 30 languages associated with literature and cultures, and a permanent Technology and Entrepreneur Center.

The school of literatures, cultures and linguistics will bring together the departments of classics, East Asian languages and cultures, French, Germanic languages and literatures, linguistics, Slavic languages and literatures, and Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

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It will also house the comparative and world literature program, the study of religion program, the division of English as an international language and the unit for cinema studies.

The Technology Entrepreneur Center, previously operating under temporary status by the IBHE, works to prepare the state’s next generation of entrepreneurs – University engineering students – as well as assists the Office of Technology Management.

At the meeting, while a slideshow displaying artwork of the winners and finalists of the 2007 Annual Collegiate Artists Competition played on a dropdown screen, Chairwoman Carrie Hightman talked about the board’s plans to develop a Master Plan. She also addressed the corruption involving student loan/lender practices nationally and the tragedy surrounding Virginia Tech.

Hightman also said there are plans to increase diveristy in higher education. In April, IBHE created the Deputy Director for Diversity and Outreach position, a position Terry Nunn took on. She said it is a high priority for the board to improve educational attainment for disadvantaged minorities and low-income families.

Curtis White of the Faculty Advisory Council said the FAC would work with the Student Advisory Committee on a report about the rise in mental health issues on college campuses.

In White’s report he cited an article from the Chicago Tribune, which said tuition at the University of Illinois has risen 250 percent in the last decade. He also said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, it now takes 31 percent of an average family’s income to pay for a year at a public college.

White also cited a paper the FAC sent to the IBHE in spring 2006 called, “Eight Theses on Higher Education in Illinois.” The paper highlighted the consequences of inadequately funding higher education. In his report, he said, “Illinois’ failure has been not simply a failure to fund higher education but a failure to see all the consequences of not funding.”

For solutions, White proposed IBHE ask the state for the money they actually need. He also said the FAC will work toward bringing together allies for a solution to the funding issue.

Keynote speaker Dr. David Spence, president of the Southern Regional Education board, gave a presentation on the current program in California to adjust high school standards to college readiness standards. He offered the IBHE board advice, saying that the system that worked in California will not work for any other state. Spence said, though, faculty at universities need to work with high school teachers to develop standards that will better prepare high school seniors for college specific to Illinois’ areas of improvement. He said the system must be a statewide agreement that all schools in the state follow.

Spence also said that the culture of higher education needs to change. Once students get into a post-secondary institution, those institutions should be held accountable for helping students graduate, he said.

The next IBHE meeting will take place at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago in August. Chairwoman Hightman said that she would like to take advantage of Illinois’ higher education institutions and hold meetings at college campuses.

The October meeting will take place at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Hightman said they are currently looking for a school to host December’s meeting in Chicago.