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SIU Carbondale inks agreement to improve access for Spoon River College students

presentation signing
Russell Bailey
SIU Carbondale-Spoon River College “Step Ahead”: Southern Illinois University Carbondale officials (from left) Wendell Williams, associate chancellor of enrollment management; Josi Rawls, associate director for transfer relations, and Sarah Jiter, undergraduate admissions director, celebrate the signing of a Saluki Step Ahead agreement with Spoon River College President Curt Oldfield and Holly Norton, vice president of educational and student services.

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale strengthened its commitment to students in west central Illinois on Aug. 2 with an agreement to bring the expertise of a doctoral research university to qualified community college students by providing the option to earn their bachelor’s degrees remotely and at a lower cost in 12 academic programs.

SIU Chancellor Austin A. Lane and Spoon River College President Curt Oldfield signed an agreement for the Saluki Step Ahead program. Established in 2021, the program enables students who graduate with an associate degree from partnering community colleges to complete their SIU bachelor’s degrees online in accounting, business administration, criminology and criminal justice, early childhood, elementary education, health care management, history, industrial management and applied engineering, information technology, nursing (RN to BSN), psychology and radiologic sciences.

“We are pleased to collaborate with Spoon River College to provide another option for place-bound students in this region,” Lane said. “If these students cannot come to Carbondale to complete their education, we will bring the experience and resources of a doctoral research university to them.”

Lane added this Saluki Step Ahead agreement fits well with the university’s strategic plan, Imagine 2030, and its pillars of student success and partnerships.

Established in 1959 with classes starting a year later, Spoon River College, then Canton Community College, became the first public junior college organized in west central Illinois. The college district covers 1,566 square miles and includes portions of Fulton, McDonough, Mason, Schuler and Knox counties. The college serves approximately 1,100 students and offers more than 25 transfer programs.

“This Saluki Step Ahead program with Southern Illinois University Carbondale will help Spoon River College students achieve their academic goals,” Oldfield said. “This flexible pathway to a bachelor’s degree will be life changing for those students who participate.

“This program brings an accessible and affordable bachelor’s degree to the SRC students and SRC alumni who are able to keep living and working in this area while achieving their dream.”

The Spoon River College agreement brings SIU Carbondale to more than 40 Saluki Step Ahead pacts that the university has with community college campuses in Illinois, Missouri and Texas so far.

Students in the Saluki Step Ahead program pay the community college rate for their first two years. In the third and fourth years, they receive an annual $4,000 scholarship. For more about Saluki Step Ahead, read the press release announcing the initiative.


Pete Rosenbery — arts and design, architecture, automotive and aviation, humanities, journalism and mass communications, law, public policy, social sciences.

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