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Letter from the Board
of Higher Education

To the People of Illinois:

The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), whose mission is to create and sustain a world-class educational system in Illinois that allows students from all communities and backgrounds to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams, respectfully submits the IBHE higher education strategic plan – "A Thriving Illinois: Higher Education Paths to Equity, Sustainability, and Growth."

IBHE’s work has begun to shine a light on the reality that not all Illinois residents have the same opportunities to thrive and significant gaps exist that disproportionately leave behind Black, Latinx, adult and rural learners.

Weeks before the initial planned launch of the strategic planning process, the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives and the ways we all engage with the higher education system. In addition to the pandemic, 2020 was a year of reckoning as the realities of racism and injustice caused massive displays of protest and civil unrest. That reckoning caused colleges and universities, both public and private organizations, to recommit to the work of equity.

This strategic plan was also developed in a time when changes in the nature of work are accelerating and innovative disrupters to traditional postsecondary education are growing. Under the leadership of Governor JB Pritzker and the General Assembly, Illinois is reinvesting in higher education despite long-term economic uncertainty.

These realities informed our process and sharpened our focus on ways that we can create more fair and future-ready educational experiences that benefit individual learners and the entire state of Illinois. This challenge is our opportunity. To unlock the economic and social progress Illinois needs to thrive we must be equipped to meet these learners where they are.

Higher education institutions have shown that they have the power to take on the world’s problems, offer paths towards transformative change, and create better futures for individuals, families, and communities across Illinois. Our vision of a thriving Illinois is one with an inclusive economy with broad prosperity and equitable paths to opportunity for all, especially those facing the greatest barriers. Now is the time to realize this vision through educational paths that drive toward equity, sustainability, and growth.

The 25 strategies outlined in this plan are designed to accomplish these three goals:

  • • Equity: Close the equity gaps for students who have historically been left behind
  • • Sustainability: Build a stronger financial future for individuals and institutions
  • • Growth: Increase talent and innovation to drive economic growth

Higher education has always been a path to a better future for individuals, communities, and the entire state of Illinois. The challenge of the next decade is to focus on creating broad paths to a prosperous future for every learner, leader, and community that we engage. We can do this with a commitment to a higher education ecosystem that reinforces equity, sustainability, and growth. That’s the vision of a thriving Illinois.

John Atkinson
Illinois Board of Higher Education

Ginger Ostro
Executive Director
Illinois Board of Higher Education