Making community college transfer easier

Bill also promotes careers in education

Photo by Don Howard
A student chooses textbooks at Lincoln Land Community College. New legislation will make it easier to transfer credits to a four-year public college in Illinois.

New legislation guarantees that community college graduates in approved degree programs would have all their major course credits transfer to a four-year public institution in Illinois. Students would have to confirm in advance that the receiving institution offers an equivalent major. Currently, four-year schools have the option of requiring community college graduates to retake certain courses in their major.

SB 2288 passed both houses of the General Assembly unanimously, and the measure is headed to Gov. JB Pritzker for his signature. If the governor approves, the law would take effect Jan. 1, 2024.

Community colleges in Illinois are free to make partnership agreements with four-year schools to ensure that their students get full credit for their academic work. Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield has been out in front of the issue, signing agreements with 14 institutions, both public and private. According to Jason Dockter, interim vice president academic services at Lincoln Land, each agreement is tailored to the programs at the receiving institutions. "About 60 percent of our students intend to transfer to a four-year school, so this issue is important to us." He said Lincoln Land students tend to transfer to one of five or six schools, and partnership agreements are already in place with those. Under the new law the school will not have to negotiate separate deals with public schools where such an agreement is not yet in place, such as Northern Illinois University or University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

In fact, Lincoln Land announced May 16 it has signed an agreement with Illinois Wesleyan University, a private school in Bloomington. IWU will guarantee admission to all Lincoln Land students who maintain a 3.0 grade point average and complete a transfer-oriented program. Lincoln Land also has a guaranteed admission agreement with University of Illinois Springfield and Illinois State University.

Chelsea Gentry is majoring in psychology at Lincoln Land Community College and wants to be a doctor. She says when she arrived on campus she was assigned a success coach who has steered her towards classes that will transfer. Gentry appreciated having a success coach after seeing firsthand the challenges her older sister faced in transferring from Illinois State. "I didn't want to go through that nightmare," she said.

Gentry came to Lincoln Land because it was affordable and convenient but says there are many other reasons why she's glad she chose the school. "This place is so supportive," says Gentry. "Not only are the counselors great, but the professors understand what it's like for students who have to juggle other commitments like jobs and family."

In addition to language guaranteeing transferability of credits, the bill also directs the Board of Higher Education and Illinois Community College Board to create an elementary and secondary education panel. The panel would address the statewide teacher shortage by focusing on education majors at community colleges, according to Terry Wilkerson, chair of the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents.

The need for more teachers in Illinois public schools is acute and longstanding. According to the 2022-2023 survey by the Illinois Association of Superintendents of Schools, 30 percent of open teacher support staff and special education positions remained unfilled or filled with someone less than qualified for the position, and nearly 80 percent of school districts reported a shortage of teachers this past fall.

The IASS also noted that the state is recovering from an extended period of decline in teacher training. Between 2010 and 2018, Illinois' teacher preparation programs saw a 60% decline in enrollments. While the General Assembly passed more than a dozen laws aimed at improving public education in Illinois last year, none addressed increasing the number of students pursuing undergraduate education degrees as directly as this year's bill.

Don Howard is an intern at Illinois Times while completing his master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting at University of Illinois Springfield.  He can be reached at or 336-455-6966.

About The Author

Don Howard

Don Howard is an intern with University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting master's degree program. He is a former lawyer and Spanish speaker who has lived in both Mexico and Spain, and most recently relocated to Illinois from Georgia.

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