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Brain gain is grad center's aim

'Why are we great? Because we were put together by... the movers and shakers of our community and from the participating institutions.'

Chuck Laws, Director,
Quad Cities Graduate Center

ROCK ISLAND -- The Quad Cities Graduate Study Center ``quietly'' unifies the bi-state area.

People cross the Mississippi River almost daily to take graduate-level classes from Illinois and Iowa universities, paying only in-state tuition regardless of their residency.

They can earn a master's degree or doctorate without leaving town. They don't have to quit their jobs or move away, and as they learn and refine their skills, they automatically share their expertise at their workplace.

That reduces the ``brain drain'' caused by top-level people leaving the area for higher education and never returning.

Although the Grad Center has been around since 1969, it still may be one of the area's best-kept secrets, according to director Charles Laws.

``If we have an identity problem in the Quad-Cities, it's basically in the questions of `Where are you located?' `Do you work for Augustana College?' `Are you on the Arsenal?'|''

The center is a publicly funded consortium of 11 colleges and universities providing 40 degree programs, with classes at seven sites in Illinois and 10 sites in Iowa.

The number of sites and colleges involved can cause a lot of confusion, administrative assistant Jean Plunkett said. ``People may not fully understand how the Grad Center is behind the programs offered at the other sites.

``When the Grad Center was created, people decided they did not want to invest in brick and mortar, but wanted to pay for programs which would actually benefit students.''

When the center was formed in 1969, community leaders, business and civic organizations pledged to pay half the administration costs for a three-year trial period -- about $200,000. Iowa and Illinois gave like amounts.

``Why are we great?'' Mr. Laws said. ``Because we were put together by the community. The center was made by the movers and shakers of our community and from the participating institutions.''

Not only did the community create the center, it helped write the necessary legislation to govern it and funded it, Marti Clyde, assistant director of the center, said.

``There are other consortia out there, but they are not bi-state in nature, nor are they devoted to graduate-level studies,'' she said. ``There have also been two or three other consortia that have come and gone during the existence of the Quad-City Grad Center.''

When the center was launched, nine colleges and universities belonged, and about 2,400 people registered for three degree programs. Most classes were held in Sorenson Hall at Augustana College, where the center's administrative offices still are located.

More than 5,400 students enrolled in Grad Center classes in 1996-97. Fall enrollments last year increased by 6 percent over 1996.

Member institutions are Augustana College, Bradley University, Illinois State University, Iowa State University, Marycrest International University, Northern Illinois University, St. Ambrose University, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa and Western Illinois University.

Ms. Plunkett said St. Xavier of Chicago has filed an application to join, and its application is being considered by the Grad Center's governing board.

-- By Leon Lagerstam (January 22, 1998)

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