MATTOON, Ill. (WCIA) — Administrators of Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois University signed on Thursday an agreement to establish a new education and transfer program between the two schools.

They’re calling it the “Transfer Back” program, and it’s meant to give college students another chance to earn their degrees. Students who paused their education and who meet the criteria can complete an associate degree at Lake Land and then transfer to EIU to complete a bachelor’s degree.

“This is a magnificent arrangement for EIU and Lake Land College, but more importantly for the diverse students and communities our institutions serve,” said Dr. David Glassman, president of Eastern Illinois University. “We value this partnership with Lake Land College and the opportunities it will create for students at both institutions.”

The agreement stipulates that Lake Land and EIU work together to identify targeted populations of EIU students who temporarily paused their education, but whose academic history demonstrates strong propensity toward successful completion. To be eligible, candidates within that pool of students, or “stop-outs” must:

  • Have not have been enrolled at either school for the past two semesters
  • Have not earned an associate or a bachelor’s degree
  • Have completed at least 45 hours of undergraduate work with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher
  • Be in good standing with regard to each school’s student conduct policies

Qualified students will be invited to enroll in Lake Land to complete an associate degree. After completion, they will be encouraged to enroll in an EIU program, in-person or online, to complete their bachelor’s degree.

“Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois University have a long history of working together to provide seamless options for students to transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree locally,” said Dr. Josh Bullock, president of Lake Land College. “This innovative agreement creates additional onramps for paused students to complete their educational pathways that lead to rewarding careers.”

Administrators said the program will allow participants to enjoy the benefits of both schools, with the partnership including enhanced credit and transcript transfers along with specialized financial supports from EIU.

They added that while “stop-outs” have been common in routine years, the number rose significantly during the height of COVID-19.

“Life happens so much to a degree that you’re not even thinking of going back to school,” said Ike Nwosu, Lake Land Vice President of Academic Services. “And then EIU or Lake Land approaches you and says, ‘Hey, you’re this close to finishing. How can we help you? We have a pathway for you.”

Nwosu said both schools are contacting about 500 students from the past decade.

In response to the pandemic and the associated plunge in student enrollment, Illinois colleges and universities are working with their partners at the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) and Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) to enhance degree completion and retention rates across the state, with an enhanced focus on adult students.

The agreement signed on Thursday, administrators said, is another step toward helping the schools in meeting and exceeding state goals and extending their services to an even broader population.