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Simon banjo
Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon invited arts organizers to join in singing a song she played on her banjo during the One State Together in the Arts Conference at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, Monday, May 23, 2011. Simon's work includes themes that spring from her legal work, including topics such as domestic violence. (The Pantagraph, David Proeber)

NORMAL — Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon congratulated officials at Heartland Community College on Monday for their efforts to increase college degree and certificate completion rates.

“I am very excited about the college’s connections to high schools in the area,” Simon said. “Making sure that high school students are prepared is really one of the keys to success of the college and to ensure that students who come here are able to leave here with what they want.”

Simon is touring the state’s 48 community colleges to review efforts aimed at making sure students graduate. Heartland was the 16th community college Simon has visited since February.

The college recently launched two initiatives to increase graduation rates, said Heartland President Allen Goben. The GPS, or Guided Path to Success, effort focuses attention on college readiness while the Read Right program is an effort to improve reading comprehension in students who read below the college level.

“The GPS program is a balance between support services for students and academic development,” he said. “We are implementing national exemplary practices to strengthen basic skills in reading and developmental math and we are encouraged that the lieutenant governor is taking the time to review our programs not only here, but throughout the state.”

Simon said Illinois lawmakers hope to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates to 60 percent by 2025. Currently, the average stands at 41 percent.

Deficiencies in math and communication skills often are roadblocks to college success, Goben said.

“Heartland has such a tremendous advantage over some schools because since it is fairly new, it often does not have to abide by traditions and standards that many other schools have developed over the years,” Simon said.



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