Illinois Senate panel OKs community-college nursing bill

Illinois Senate panel OKs community-college nursing bill

SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois Senate committee narrowly approved legislation Tuesday that its sponsor admitted would "change the construct of higher education" in Illinois.

SB 888, sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, would permit as many as 20 Illinois community colleges — including Parkland College in Champaign — to offer a four-year bachelor's degree in nursing.

The bill is opposed by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, all nine public universities in the state and a number of existing nursing programs that said they would be able to increase capacity if the demand for nurses with four-year degrees soars.

Even some senators who voted to get the bill out of committee said their "yes" vote on the floor isn't guaranteed, and they urged Manar to try to work out differences with opponents.

Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, voted against the bill. Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, voted for it.

"This sets up a high bar that must be met to establish a program at each community college district, including a national professional accreditation, approval from appropriate state agencies, documentation of the unmet workforce needs and demonstration of expertise and student interest in a potential program," Manar said.

The bill also prohibits the use of state funding for the nursing programs at community colleges.

Manar said the legislation would help fill "this critical workforce shortage in underserved areas in the state."

Parkland President Tom Ramage told the committee that the legislation would benefit nursing students who are concerned about access, affordability and need.

"Most of our students at community colleges are place-bound by circumstance," he said. "They don't have the ability or the time to drive to a distant location to further their education."

Most community college students are working, he said.

"Time is the second-biggest issue relative to our students. Eighty percent or more of our students prefer face-to-face instruction," Ramage said. "But our students are comfortable with the faculty they know, in a building that they know, in a cohort of similar students using the academic support systems that are already in place and they are familiar with."

Ramage said the average cost of a bachelor's degree in nursing is projected to be between $5,000 and $7,000 a year, "compared with the average tuition at the state university, which averages $17,774."

He said five major hospital systems in the state support the legislation.

But Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn called the tuition comparison "a fallacy" and said that 35 institutions in Illinois already have nursing programs and that adding 20 more would be duplicative.

"If that doesn't meet the definition of duplication of services and too many institutions offering the same degrees, I don't know what does," he said.

He said the university presidents also opposed the legislation as a public policy shift.

"If we cross this line in providing the authority for bachelor's degrees at community colleges, we're at a point where we will be changing statutory, operational history, and the structure of how Illinois public higher education was envisioned," Dunn said.

It was a theme repeated several times during the nearly three-hour hearing on the bill.

"My fear is that we could be back here someday with Chicago State pointing to a skills gap in the manufacturing economy in Chicago and wanting to confer associates and technical degrees," said state Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago. "I just like the idea of keeping the community colleges in their lane and the universities in their lane."

Manar, though, said that he was representing his mostly rural district's needs with the legislation.

"My district has said to me loud and clear over the last several years, employers and students, that they want the ability to have a more affordable option to fill this workforce shortage," he said.

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annabellissimo wrote on March 15, 2017 at 9:03 am

When oh when are the college and university presidents in the state of Illinois going to join together in solidarity and charge the state "legislators" and "governor" with - sedition or subversion - or some new word to describe the unprecedented destruction by elected officials of the very entity they were elected to represent, rather than destroy! The charges would be for what they are deliberately doing to the colleges and universities of the state, with new iterations of the destruction appearing in the news every day! All of the resources, all of the assets, all of the history and all of the potential they are destroying - It's like handing pieces of delicate china to chimpanzees. When oh when are the college and university presidents in the state of Illinois going to say "no!" in solidarity when they are summoned, as they were yet again recently, by the state "legislators" to sit and be grilled with absurd questions by the very group that is destroying them. It's like the inquisition meets "Groundhog Day" and the surreal abuse from the serial abusers happens over and over again. In essence, the "legislators" summon them and then demand to be told "Why we shouldn't kill you!" Why aren't the college and university presidents joined in solidarity to fight this most vile destruction?! However, the fact is that there will be no solidarity because the odious heart of the "legislators" and "governor" has so deviously pitted the colleges and universities against - not the "legislators" and "governor" - but against each other! Like starving inmates grasping for the last crumbs, the college and university presidents say and do things to undermine their fellow institutions while they each vie for students, for money, for help! Meanwhile, the "legislators" and "governor" keep coming up with new ways to kill them and they summon the presidents and other campus leaders to a big table and they badger and grill them about why they aren't hastening their own demise, why they aren't applauding their torture, why they are still alive, "justify why you are still alive" so we can devise new ways to hasten your destruction. The "governor" calls them names and berates them for being the presidents of colleges and universities and for having administrators while he, the "governor: hires anybody and everybody who agrees with him and gives them a ludicrous title, pays them lots and lots of money because why? because they agree with him - and puts them on his bloated, highly paid staff except we can't use the word "bloated" because he, the "governor" has trademarked its use to apply to the college and university presidents he, the "governor", and they, the "legislators" so enjoy abusing. Poke the bloated colleges and university presidents! See them dance when we poke them! We are starving them! Why aren't they dead so we can pick their pockets and take their wallets?! The names and mug shots of all these know-nothings should be in all the newspapers and post offices every day with the words "Wanted for Misprision!" Misprision definition, a neglect or violation of official duty by one in office. It often appears with other definitions once considered extremely serious offenses by Americans, words like treason, sedition, traitor; words describing acts that were un-American, from some time back when we all used to know and share the concept of what it meant to be an American so that it was clear what its opposite meant, i.e. to be un-American, around the same time that most of those in Illinois cared about the quality of life and of living in Illinois, and the U.S. Simon and Garfunkle in "Bookends": Time it was And what a time it was, it was A time of innocence A time of confidences Long ago it must be I have a photograph Preserve your memories They're all that's left you.

Milanus wrote on March 15, 2017 at 11:03 am

Somehow it's entirely predictable that the big universities would oppose this... Now that most nursing occupations are wanting a bachelor's degree, it makes sense to make it more accessible. It's insanity to pay as much for the large universities when places like Parkland actually have arguably better programs already. Also, the flexibility of community colleges work better for people who have to pay bills and don't have the mommy and daddy safety net, especially with the huge disparity in tuition rates. Fighting against this reeks of classism, and I usually hate resorting to -isms.