By preparing our state workforce for the highly skilled jobs of tomorrow, we can improve employment opportunities and foster continued economic growth. ”
Illinois Lt. Governor Simon serves as the state’s point person on education reform. In this capacity, Simon is working to strengthen public education at every level. Simon has chaired and worked with committees that focus on improving learning opportunities for students, advocates for comprehensive college and career-ready education, and supports initiatives that promote high-quality, affordable, higher education.
What are your views on the importance of increased college attainment for Illinois’ economy and the quality of life for its citizens?
As the state’s point person on education reform, I am working to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates to 60 percent by 2025. This means strengthening public education at every level. By preparing our state workforce for the highly skilled jobs of tomorrow, we can improve employment opportunities and foster continued economic growth.
What strategies have you implemented in Illinois to improve college affordability?
In the fall of 2012, I convened Affordability Summits at each of the Illinois’ 12 public university campuses and met with students, faculty and administrators to discuss ways to address the rising cost of college. Following the summits, I released a white paper which outlines game-changing reforms such as programs that enable students to enroll simultaneously in high school and community college, or community college and university, to save money and speed time to degree. Thanks to Lumina’s support, we hosted a “scaling up” conference that provided administrators step-by-step instructions on how to (and how not to) replicate programs that promote affordability and completion across the state.
What initiatives have you promoted in terms of good consumer information when it comes to Illinois colleges and universities?
Transparency is essential. As Lieutenant Governor, I pushed for a standardized consumer report card to be published by every higher education institution in the state. Students and parents need comparable information on costs and completion rates to make smart choices about higher education. The White House beat us to the punch by creating the College Scorecard, and now I’m asking all high schools and higher education institutions to link to it on their websites.
How do you and your office mobilize Illinois constituents to make higher education reform a top priority in the state legislature?
We focus on the connection between education and jobs. The health and wealth of our state depends on its brain power. Our priorities span the P-20 system – we have to start with early childhood investment, promote college and career readiness standards in elementary and high school, and guide students into higher education pathways that lead to in-demand jobs.
Looking back on the changes that you’ve led for higher ed reform, what advice would you share with others who are interested in pursuing similar objectives?
Focus on the finish. We need to broaden our focus from access to completion. We cannot grade ourselves on how many students are welcomed into our schools, but by how many actually walk across the stage at graduation with a degree or certificate that leads to a good-paying job.