MT. VERNON - The groundwork is ongoing for a breakthrough opportunity in education.
A packed room was the setting for a milestone meeting Tuesday night at the Rend Lake College MarketPlace. Representatives of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and community colleges of the region met with those who dream to teach.
SIUC has teamed with Rend Lake College and many other educational institutions in the region to offer a baccalaureate degree in elementary education. Through the new program, students can obtain a degree without ever laying eyes on Faner Hall or even stepping foot on SIUC soil. Beginning in the spring 2007 semester, classes toward a four-year elementary education degree from SIUC will be held at the RLC MarketPlace in Mt. Vernon.
Since the coursework will not be at SIUC, the fees associated with the program will be less than those required of an on-campus student, according to Dr. Patricia Elmore, Interim Dean of the College of Education and Human Services at SIUC. Additionally, Elmore told the crowd in attendance at the open house meeting that one student reported her savings in gasoline alone would be $1,400 per year to attend classes closer to home.
More than a dozen educators from Mt. Vernon City Schools District 80, including District Superintendent Kevin Settle, were in attendance. Among them was Casey Middle School Assistant Principal Sannon Marler. She said she was there to learn more about the program and support the teachers and teaching assistants in her district who want to pursue their own education in order to better educate others.
“I feel that any time someone wants an education I am behind them and I am all for supporting it,” she said.
According to Marler, working while going to school is a hurdle many of her colleagues will face in the program, but she thinks they will benefit from their current position in the educational system.
Facilitators of the meeting; such as SIUC Chancellor Walter Wendler, Elmore, SIUC President Glenn Poshard, Board of Trustees Chairman Roger Tedrick and Vice Chancellor John M. Dunn; explained that the open house was a way for interested entities to get a better understanding of what the potential student population for the new program wants.
Those who attended were surveyed about their time and day preference for courses to be held and what other programs from the COEHS they may be interested in seeing in the future. Some of those mentioned were early childhood education, health education, social work, special education and graduate work.
Perhaps as exciting as the new program itself was Wendler’s comment that the university is looking to offer additional programs of study at satellite locations such as the RLC MarketPlace.
“We hope this will become a series of programs,” he said. “We have a commitment to help the people of southern Illinois reach their aspirations in education.”
Attendees were also given a course layout of the elementary education program, a list of policies and requirements, a chance to meet with financial aid experts who were on hand at the meeting and examples of frequently asked questions; such as “how long will it take me to complete this program” and how much will it cost me?”
According to the FAQ sheet, those who only have their major courses yet to take should be able to finish the program by December, 2008, providing that at least a couple of courses are taken each summer. To complete summer coursework, the student may have to travel to SIUC for classes.
Tuition and program delivery charge for the MarketPlace program will initially be at least $250 per credit hour or $750 per three-credit course, according to the FAQ document.
Those interested in applying must complete an application as soon as possible, according to program coordinators. The deadline for the spring 2007 semester is Feb. 1 and applications to SIUC can be found by going on-line to www.siuc.edu/applyPage.html. Applications to the Teacher Education Program, or TEP, are available on-line at http://tqe.siu.edu/tqerecruit/coehsprograms/Teacher_Educ_Prog_Appli.htm.
Dunn said making the program available off-campus expresses the university’s commitment to education and that the more work SIUC can do with community colleges, the better educational services will be to the public.
Poshard echoed Dunn’s opinion of the program when he said, “We haven’t been where we should be in southern Illinois, but we are ... now getting out there.”
Elmore thanked RLC Vice President of Instruction Jim Hull and others for their work in conceptualizing and formalizing the joint program venture.
Dunn said he has heard “very compelling stories” from individuals who work very hard to enhance and improve their lives and the lives of their loved ones. If SIUC works with RLC and other community colleges toward a common goal to satisfy the educational needs of the public, “there is nothing to prevent us from offering that to the people who are important to us,” Dunn added.
“The value of your degree from a university like ours is a lot more valuable than other colleges,” said Poshard. He said SIUC programs; particularly the medical, law, dental, pharmacy and nursing programs; are nationally recognized for their level of quality.
Elmore pointed out that two of eight programs at SIUC were ranked by U.S. News and World Report as being in the top 10 programs of study in the nation for their particular discipline. She added that the agency also ranked SIUC as the No. 6 site in the nation for the education of all minorities, No. 2 in the nation regarding its African American student population and one of the top 50 schools in the U.S. regarding the education of students of Asian, Hispanic and Native American descent.
“You will join a group of really outstanding students who have graduated from our college,” she concluded.
Upon being introduced to the crowd at the meeting by Dunn, RLC President Mark S. Kern said, “We are extremely pleased to see you here.”
Thomas Calhoun, the Assistant Provost of Academic Affairs at SIUC, said, “I am excited about this. It fits in with [Poshard’s] goals and [Wendler’s] goals. We’re all concerned about providing services to the public. It doesn’t make any sense for us not to be here in the Rend Lake College MarketPlace. Dr. Hull has been instrumental in getting this started and we see this only as the beginning. The turnout here tonight is clearly reflective of the need in the region.”
“We don’t look at students as SIU students or Rend Lake students,” Poshard said. “We look at them as our students and we need to find out how best to serve them. There is much more to follow.”