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Western Illinois University recently opened a regional center in Moline, although the college has been offering classes in the Quad-Cities for years. Western offers undergraduate and advanced degrees.

A smorgasbord of higher-education opportunities provides Quad-Citians with basically anything they might want to learn, according to Rey Brune, a longtime member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

There are about two dozen colleges and trade schools in the Quad-Cities, three private four-year liberal arts colleges, a state university's new regional center, two top-notch community colleges, an internationally known chiropractic college, and a graduate-level consortium of 13 colleges and universities.

The area also boasts a full selection of technical and trade schools.

People can enroll in a Bible institute or learn more about business and commerce. A variety of barber, hairstyling, cosmetic and beauty schools also are available. People interested in travel careers, modeling and air flight also have educational resources available to them.

``A person living in this community has a tremendously wide range of opportunities,'' Mr. Brune, a 25-year member of the state's board of higher education, said. ``They can learn everything from how to drive a truck to how to become a computer programmer.''

Such choices have not always been the case, he said.

``We've moved from having only limited offerings to full capacity in the last 35 years,'' the Moline resident said. ``People in the Quad-Cities have taken charge of their education and now provide every opportunity a younger person could need, as well as for someone who comes to this area for their job and chooses to do advanced work and stay abreast of the latest trends.

``Let's start with Black Hawk College,'' he said. ``They not only provide a low-cost education, but combined with Western Illinois University's program, a person can stay at home, earn a degree and get it at reasonable rates, as you would expect at a public institution.''

Students also can take their first two years at Black Hawk, described by Mr. Brune as one of the nation's premier community colleges, then transfer to Augustana College in Rock Island or St. Ambrose or Marycrest International University in Davenport.

``Augustana College is simply one of the outstanding institutions of higher learning in the world, known for its high quality,'' Mr. Brune said. ``Augustana has an excellent reputation everywhere you go.''

Marycrest and Ambrose also are known for quality programs and have grown into larger co-ed institutions than when they were founded, he said.

Scott Community College in Bettendorf also is another outstanding source of education, Mr. Brune said.

``Western Illinois offers a lot of advanced degrees, as well as its baccalaureate program to people in this area,'' Mr. Brune added, noting the university's new regional center in Moline enhances its offerings.

The Grad Center, created in the 1960s in response to requests by local industries, gives people exposure to many advanced-degree opportunities. The center is a coalition of 13 colleges and universities in Iowa and Illinois offering 45 degrees at in-state tuition for Iowa and Illinois students.

The 1960s was a major turning point in higher education in the Quad-Cities, Mr. Brune said.

Not only was the graduate-studies center created then, but Black Hawk College officially established its district and started building the campus on 47 acres near Moline's 34th Avenue.

Although the community college started in 1946, it shared the faculty and facilities of Moline High School until a 1961 referendum severed ties with the Moline School District. Black Hawk's East Campus in Kewanee started in 1967, the same year ground was broken for the new Moline campus.

Western Illinois University's undergraduate center also entered the Quad-Cities market in the 1960s, Mr. Brune said.

Improvements to the state's interstate highway system played a pivotal role in increasing educational opportunities. A trip to the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana used to take about five hours, but can now be done in three, and a former 1 1/2-hour trip to the University of Iowa in Iowa City now takes just over an hour, he said as examples.

``You can find almost anything you want in education in the Quad-Cities,'' Mr. Brune said. ``You might not be able to become a (medical) doctor, but you only have to go 45 miles or so and you can.''

However, people can study chiropractic at Palmer College of Chiropractic and join the world's second-largest health-care profession.

The wide range of public and private institutions gives students a wide choice of offerings, Mr. Brune said, and the chance to decide exactly how much or little they want to spend for their education.

-- By Leon Lagerstam (February 2, 1998)

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