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Governors State University to be a four-year facility

Updated: January 9, 2012 10:16AM

Chicago area college students have a new option for a four-year university degree.

In 2014, Governors State University in University Park will welcome its first freshman class ever.

Since it was founded in 1969, Governors State has offered only junior-level and higher courses, including graduate work.  By expanding to a full, four-year university, GSU president Elaine Maimon said the school can better serve the community.

“We have the goal of making those (freshman) courses the most exciting freshman courses in the nation,” Maimon said.  “We have the option to start from the ground up.”

“We are the only public university serving this growing area, from south of the city limits of Chicago and north of the Bloomington-Normal area,” Maimon said.

These won’t be your typical freshman college classes. They will be in a cohort form, meaning the entire freshman class, divided into three cohort groups, will take the same, set courses together instead of choosing which classes to take.

“Nearly every other first-year student in Illinois, in every university, by state law, is required to take the same basic first-year courses,” Maimon said.

Those courses include English composition, math and science.

But Maimon said GSU will not compete with local community colleges for first-year students. Rather, the university will continue its partnership with them. Currently, GSU works with community colleges in a dual-degree program, encouraging students to complete an associate’s degree within five semesters and then transfer to GSU to complete a bachelor’s degree.

“We want to do both ends, not either-or,” Maimon said.  “We want to provide the highest-quality option for students who begin at community colleges and transfer. Whatever is in the student’s best interest.”

Maimon said the 2014 freshman class will be limited to 270 students who must commit to being full-time daytime students. 

She said research shows cohort-based freshman classes result in a higher retention rate.

GSU recently received an $875,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation to enhance the dual-degree program.

“For a regional public university to win a (national) grant this size is a big deal,” Maimon said. “The fact we started the dual-degree program without outside support was an enticement for them to invest in us.”

Maimon said those funds will be used for a professional peer mentoring program on community college campuses.

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