lllinois has historically ranked second in the nation when it comes to high school graduates leaving the state to go to college. But there's good news for a certain set of students who opt to stay.
New data released by the state Board of Higher Education shows Illinois is tops in the nation for getting students who start out at community college through to a bachelor's degree.
"Illinois is now ranked No. 1 in the country for all the right reasons,” says Eric Lichtenberger, deputy director of information management and research at the Illinois Board of Higher Education. “We are now No. 1 in terms of the rate of bachelor's degree completion among community college students that transfer to four-year institutions."
The ranking is based on tracking first-time college students who enrolled in community colleges in 2010, and subsequently transferred to four-year schools. In Illinois, 53.8 percent of those students earned a bachelor’s degree by 2016 — a higher percentage than any other state.
Washington state ranked second, with 50.7 percent.
Lichtenberger attributes Illinois’ success to the Illinois Articulation Initiative — a framework built in 1993 that formalizes agreements between community colleges and four-year schools, to help ensure community college credits count at universities.
"Illinois was a leader in terms of adapting that first. There are a lot of other states that have modeled what they do in terms of transfer on what we do, in the state of Illinois," he says.
That data doesn't include high school students who enrolled in dual-credit programs, which would probably boost the state's lead even further.
Illinois has 39 community college districts, with 48 colleges. That’s the fourth-highest number of community colleges of any state in the nation.