Harper and Oakton reach agreement with SIU for online courses

Two suburban community colleges are among the first to enter into an agreement with Southern Illinois University at Carbondale allowing their students to earn four-year degrees at a distance and at a lower cost.

Harper College in Palatine and Oakton Community College in Des Plaines will sign agreements next week to join the SIU Saluki Step Ahead program.

After earning associate degrees from Harper or Oakton, students will be able to move on to SIU to earn bachelor’s degrees in six university programs: accounting, business administration, healthcare management, radiological sciences, criminology and justice. criminal, and psychology. They will pay the community college rate for their first two years and receive an annual scholarship of $ 4,000 in years three and four, allowing them to earn an online degree for less than $ 25,000. Students who enroll in the program will receive career guidance from a SIU advisor.

The SIU will partner with Harper’s University Center to offer bachelor’s degree programs in accounting, paralegal and public safety management on the Harper campus. It will provide a hybrid experience for students who cannot relocate to Carbondale. This, along with the Saluki Step Ahead online program, will provide better access to education, said Harper Chairman Avis Proctor.

Harper is also partnering with DePaul University, University of Northern Illinois, and Roosevelt University to offer eight different non-competitive study programs through the University Center. Over 330 students are enrolled at the center, which has graduated nearly 50 students since it opened in 2018. Since then, its enrollment has grown every semester.

“It really was a game-changer,” said Proctor, adding that the college now has a good balance between in-person and online offerings. “The value and affordability are attractive. As the pandemic emerges, people really need to review and develop their skills. It’s just another way of doing it, responding to the needs of the community. “

The COVID-19 pandemic has made online university more attractive to many students who previously might not have viewed it as a viable option.

“One of the great benefits (of the SIU partnership) is that it offers online pathways in some very popular fields,” said Anne Brennan, assistant vice president of academic affairs and college transitions at Oakton.

SIU is among the top 20 higher education destinations for Oakton students.

“There is a new opening to online opportunities (in) the college market,” said Brennan.

“Now that everyone has tasted it, people know what they like and some are choosing online education.”

Oakton has agreements with more than 25 universities, some of which offer online degree programs. This fall, about 58% of credited Oakton students plan to move on to a four-year college or university, officials said.

SIU had to dramatically increase its online degree offerings during the pandemic. It now offers 11 such programs, said Josi Rawls, deputy director of transfer relations.

“For transferring students, the element of accessibility is so important,” she said. “A lot of times they have families, careers; they can’t just uproot their lives and move to another city.”

Rawls said the six majors offered as part of the Saluki Step Ahead program are already well established and popular with SIU online students.

SIU has signed an agreement with the Illinois Community College Board to expand this program to 48 community colleges in the state.

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