Governors State University is now committed to serving freshmen and sophomores, not just juniors, seniors and graduate students. This is good for GSU, and it's good for Illinois.
Under university President Elaine Maimon's leadership, GSU will compete with other four-year universities across Illinois as a full-service school.
However, it's doing so without cutting ties to community colleges cranking out graduates with associate degrees who go on to work toward bachelor's degrees.
GSU's biggest advantage over other four-year schools is its tuition rate -- $255 per credit hour for residents of Illinois and Northwest Indiana. It's the lowest of any public university in Illinois.
Community colleges like South Suburban College are cheaper, though. Fees at those colleges vary, based on where the student lives.
"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.
There are two advantages in continuing that relationship. Granting an associate degree as an intermediate step to a bachelor's degree not only gives recognition of progress along the way but also a useful credential for those who require employment while working on their bachelor's degree. It also reinforces GSU's position as the source for the more advanced learning juniors and seniors receive.
Residence halls and intercollegiate athletics will help GSU students who enroll as freshmen get the full four-year college experience.
"We won't have a big-time football program, but we will have basketball team and other sports," university spokesman Michael Drakulich said. "It's all part of an effort to bolster the university's image."
It's also important to bolster the number of adults with college degrees. Encouraging more students to earn degrees makes the state more attractive to potential employers looking for a skilled work force.
GSU's decision to be a four-year university is good for Illinois, not just for the university.