Beginning this fall, the agreement provides RVC students a prescribed, sequential set of general education courses during their first two years in Rockford to put them right on track when they arrive at NIU for the second half of the licensure program with ESL/Bilingual endorsement.
Coordinated academic advising, along with an earlier introduction to the Office for Student Success in Gabel Hall, is expected to create strong relationships that lead to improved enrollment management, retention and graduation rates.
“Students who choose to follow the 2+2 plan with RVC are going to have a more positive and easier transfer experience,” says Christy Schweitzer, assistant director for Student Success.
“They’re going to have their goals and their timeline more aligned so that they can reach their goal of becoming a teacher in the time that they plan and hope for, and that’s going to save time, money and frustration because they’re not taking classes they don’t need,” Schweitzer adds. “They’re on that lane from their first day they’re at RVC.”
More than three dozen RVC students already have expressed interest in the 2+2 and its road to NIU, says Tim Spielman, manager of Academic Advising at Rock Valley.
Those students “are excited about the benefits this program provides and are looking forward to transferring to a nearby public university,” Spielman says.
“Education degrees can often be complicated and are, therefore, more difficult than other degrees for academic advisors at community colleges to advise students intending to transfer. Having a formalized agreement of this nature will enable our academic and transfer advisors to better assist students interested in transferring to NIU,” he says.
“This allows them to complete their general education courses and introductory major courses at RVC before transferring to NIU,” he adds. “They can be confident their RVC classes will transfer and that they can complete their bachelor’s degree in a reasonable – and predictable – amount of time.”
David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs, calls the move “important” for both schools and the Rockford area as well.
“Our transfer enrollment coming to the College of Education this fall from community colleges is up 6.3% from last fall. This is a growth opportunity for us, and we’re seeing these 2+2 agreements pay off, not only with the curricular initiatives but on the personal side of developing, nurturing and sustaining the partnerships,” Walker says.
“Rock Valley is a good partner for us because it’s an urban location, which is part of our three-pronged 2+2 approach in terms of locale: rural, suburban and urban,” he adds. “It also helps us supply teachers to the Rockford Public Schools as part of its Aspiring Teachers program, which has been going on for a number of years. We have a very long and positive relationship with Rockford Public Schools.”
“NIU has an incredible collaborative relationship with RPS-205, with really dynamic and innovative clinical experiences there,” Schweitzer says. “We have great relationships with the Harlem and Belvidere school districts too, as they also host many of our teacher-candidates, so these RVC students have the potential to learn and grow as educators in classrooms near their communities.”
Spielman shares the hometown objective.
“We hope that this program will encourage more students to pursue elementary education at NIU and will then stay in the area to be teachers in Rockford and surrounding communities,” he says. “We also hope that that this agreement can become a model to use for creating additional pathways between RVC and NIU.”
The College of Education and Rock Valley launched a 2+2 degree path in Kinesiology in 2018; work is nearly complete to add Early Childhood Education and Special Education to the portfolio soon, Walker says.
For Sally Blake, chair of the NIU Department of Curriculum and Instruction, the evolving suite of 2+2 agreements – many of which live under the umbrella of Dean Laurie Elish-Piper’s PLEDGE program – is “a big deal.”
“Every time we start a new one, it’s exciting,” says Blake, whose department in May celebrated the graduation of the first cohort at Elgin Community College. “We are continuing to meet the needs of the teacher shortages by building these strong collaborations and by providing the best possible experiences for these students.”
Providing that support “encourages them, inspires them and ignites their passion,” she adds.
“What I anticipate coming out of this is stronger teachers and professionals, ready to step right into these schools, whether they be urban, suburban or rural,” Blake says. “We’re changing the workforce with the very best teachers and changing the future of children in Illinois. What we’re doing is important to support the success of all children in Illinois.”