D211 Post: Foundation Taps District 211, Harper College, NIU for Bachelor’s Degree Grant

High School District 211, Harper College, and Northern Illinois University have been selected to participate in a one-year “design challenge” that aims to dramatically move the needle on bachelor’s degree completion for community college students.

The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation is funding the nonprofit Education Design Lab to lead the Seamless Transfer Pathway Design Challenge. Harper, NIU and District 211 are among just four groups of two- and four-year institutions chosen nationwide for the grant.  

“We know that through our partnerships, we are able to achieve more together than we ever could individually,” Harper College President Dr. Ken Ender said. “If we are going to increase baccalaureate completion in a transformational way, we must begin to think of the high school, community college and university as a single network.”

Research shows about 80 percent of students who enroll in a community college intend to complete a bachelor’s degree. Yet, according to the Education Design Lab, only 25 percent make the leap to a four-year school within five years, and just 17 percent complete a four-year degree within six years of transferring.

The design challenge will bring together partners to break down transfer barriers.

Harper, NIU and District 211’s proposal aims to reduce the time and cost of earning a bachelor’s degree with a goal of a 30 percent increase in the number of Harper students who go on to graduate from NIU within six years. Several initiatives will make this possible including:

  • Power of 15: Based on research showing students who enter college with 15 credits are twice as likely to graduate with a four-year degree, the Power of 15 program increases opportunities for students to earn college credit while still in high school.
  • Reducing remediation: Opportunities will be expanded for students to take developmental English and math courses during their senior year of high school so they enter Harper automatically eligible for college-level courses.
  • Reduction in “wasted” credits: Continued alignment of pathways will ensure students take courses they need to successfully complete their desired program.
  • Early college credit: Students will take college credit courses while in high school at a sharply reduced cost.
  • Promise Scholarship: Students can earn up to two years of free tuition at Harper by meeting benchmarks in the areas of attendance, rigor, quality, persistence and community service.
  • Unified transition advising: Students will be advised through a coordinated, case management effort that will serve them from high school to completing their bachelor’s degree at NIU.
  • Guaranteed enrollment: If students stay on their pathway and meet minimum requirements, they will not need to apply for admission to NIU after completing Harper.

Beginning this fall, the design challenge will provide partners with coaches, access to experts in transfer pathways and reimbursement for national cohort meetings and design sessions. Pilot programs developed over the next year will be launched in fall 2018 and results tracked for six years.

“Our partnership with Harper College has made the pursuit of a college degree a real possibility for many of our students,” District 211 Superintendent Dr. Daniel Cates said. “For years, we have envisioned how we might connect more of our high school students with a four-year college program at Northern Illinois University, and we are excited to partner with Harper College and NIU to make this dream a true possibility for our students.”

“We are excited to partner with Harper College and Township High School District 211 on an innovative pathway to increase the number of students earning a four-year degree,” said Ron Smith, NIU Director, Community College Partnerships. “Our collective efforts will better prepare students for success throughout their college and career endeavors.”

For more information on the design challenge, visit eddesignlab.org.


(Release courtesy of Harper College Media Relations Office)

Annual Entrepreneurship Day Approaches, Several Students to Attend

Students listen to a speaker at last year’s Entrepreneurship Day sponsored by Northern Illinois University and the Coleman Foundation. This year’s speakers cover a wide-range of professions.

District 211 students will have the opportunity to join other students from District 214 and Barrington High School to learn about running and starting a business from experienced and successful entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship Day is sponsored by Northern Illinois University’s School of Business and the Coleman Foundation, and is on Nov. 16 at the NIU campus in Hoffman Estates. Students will listen to success stories and advice from individuals who have gone through the process of building a business. Several other organizations also contribute to the event each year.

“Students get to see what’s involved with being an entrepreneur and they get to hear about the trials and tribulations in starting your own business,” said Otis Price, District 211’s director of Athletics, Activities and Career Development. “It’s also important because if a student has an idea or something they want to do, he or she can see that it’s possible. This has been a great partnership with NIU.”

The idea to start an entrepreneurship day originated in District 214 before District 211 started its entrepreneurship class, which is currently offered at three high schools in the District. Now, students who have an interest in becoming an entrepreneur and students in classes are able to attend event sessions. Roughly 250 students collectively attend the event.

There are several different types of businesses that are highlighted each year. Owners of restaurants, specialty clothing stores, photography companies, skateboarding shops, and more have been featured throughout the years. This year, students will hear from the following speakers: Keynote speaker Denise Maple of Vavavroom; Patrick Tannous of Tiesta Tea; Dan Nicholson of Position Tech; Jim and Ric Clifton of The Locker Shop; Amanda Burdick of La’Di Events; Gregg Majewski of Jersey’s Pizza and Grill; Robert Gereowitz, OD, of Eyesright Optometry; Dave Esau of Dave’s Specialty Foods; and Jim Streich of The Drum Pad.

Price said this is an important event because it shows students that ideas can turn into lucrative, successful, and highly-enjoyable careers. He added that because District 211 students can now earn dual-credit by examinations through NIU, which means students who pass an examination after completing the course receive credit through NIU.

“Entrepreneurship is a huge political issue right now and there is a lot of talk about how small businesses are such an important part of the recovery of our economy, and this gives kids ideas for how to turn a hobby or talent in a business that can be a livelihood,” Price said. “This is something that is important, and we want to keep encouraging our kids to dream big.”

For more information about Entrepreneurship Day, please visit the website here.