Community colleges see cooperation, not competition, from expanded GSU

2014-03-08T23:00:00Z 2014-03-09T00:38:08Z Community colleges see cooperation, not competition, from expanded GSUGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent
March 08, 2014 11:00 pm  • 

Students looking to begin college have a new option to consider — Governors State University is converting into a four-year university.

Previously, the school had graduate-level programs, along with offering the third and fourth years toward undergraduate degrees. Students did their first two years of studies elsewhere, primarily at community colleges.

University officials said offering entire degree programs is not meant to break the ties with those community colleges.

University President Elaine Maimon said the Dual Degree program that has been developed with Chicago-area community colleges will remain in place.

“We’re still encouraging students to get an associate’s degree, then transfer here in a way that is seamless so they can continue their studies without interruption,” Maimon said.

She said the efforts to turn Governors State University into a full-fledged academic institution at the undergraduate level is directed more to compete with other four-year universities across Illinois.

By offering full undergraduate programs, constructing residence halls and incorporating intercollegiate athletics, Maimon said the university hopes to draw more students who are committed to the college.

“We won’t have a big-time football program, but we will have a basketball team and other sports,” university spokesman Michael Drakulich said. “It’s all part of an effort to bolster the university’s image.”

Maimon said there is one advantage Governors State University will have over other public colleges in Illinois, its tuition rate of $255 per credit hour for Illinois and Northwest Indiana residents is the lowest of any public university across the state. GSU is freezing tuition and fees for the upcoming academic year.

By comparison, Illinois resident students taking one or two credit hours of coursework at the University of Illinois at Chicago will pay $781 in tuition, while in-state students at Chicago State University pay $285 per credit hour.

Maimon said Governors State’s new freshman class probably won’t steal many students away from South Suburban College in South Holland, Prairie State College in Chicago Heights or Olive/Harvey College on Chicago’s Southeast Side.

As low-cost as Governors State is, the community colleges offer even lower rates, which Mainon said still makes community colleges attractive.

Students at South Suburban College who live in the district pay $120 per credit hour, while Lake County, Ind., residents pay $35 more. Olive/Harvey students are charged $89 per credit hour. Students at Prairie State College are charged $108, plus a $16 fee, for each credit hour of classes they take. Lake County, Ind., residents pay $315 plus the fee per credit hour at PSC.

Jennifer Stoner, a Prairie State College spokeswoman, agreed.

“We offer such a good deal financially for tuition that some people will want to remain here,” she aid.

Patrick Rush, a South Suburban College spokesman, said the school offers various tuition waiver programs for students unable to pay the current rate

Both also said as long as Governors State maintains its Dual Degree program, there will be reason for students to keep attending the community colleges, then transfer.

“It’s a wonderful program that allows our students who decide to transfer to lock things into place and make the shift with ease,” Rush said.

Maimon said Governors State officials have no intention of doing away with the program.

“It has worked well and continues to bring us quality students,” she said. “We want to work with the community colleges, not compete against them.”

Stoner called the idea of freshman students at Governors State “a win-win” for everyone.

“Anything that encourages more people to continue their education is a good thing,” she said.

She also cited one other reason for Prairie State College, at least, to want to continue ties to Governors State.

“We have always had a very collegial relationship with them, because many of us (at Prairie State) got our master's degrees there.”

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