Johnson presented a “State of the University” address to officials from the City of Joliet and Will and Grundy Counties. “As a ‘freshman’ again myself, I’m excited by each new connection and opportunity that presents itself for our University of St. Francis,” said Johnson, who became USF’s ninth president June 1.
McGuire, a USF alumnus, commented that much work has been done during the past year in the State of Illinois and that he is looking forward to working to support higher education in 2014.
According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s fall 2012 statistics, more than 34 percent of Illinois college students attended independent colleges and universities, noted Johnson. “And, USF is proud to serve over 3,000 Illinois residents and to count among its alumni almost 18,000 Illinois residents, almost 7,000 Will County residents and over 2,000 Joliet residents.”
A 2011 independent study showed that USF annually adds $173 million to the Joliet and Chicago Metropolitan area economy, said Johnson, including $64 million to the Will County economy and $1.6 million in direct benefits to the City of Joliet.
Walsh commented that higher education plays an important role in a strong economy. “We are experiencing good growth in Will County and understand that the University of St. Francis and other higher education institutions play a strong role in that. We are a university town,” said Walsh.
Johnson commented on many other “bragging points” for the university, including recent improvements to facilities and grounds; the opening of the Art Gallery in the downtown Joliet Rialto Theatre complex, made possible by grants from the Will County Board and Caesar’s Foundation/Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel; and the beginning of construction on the downtown Mode building, which donated last year by BMO Harris Bank, will house academic programs.
New programs have been added and this fall, the university also welcomed its largest freshman class, said Johnson, who added that 68 percent of freshmen are first-generation college students.
“Our effectiveness and affordability as a university is something of which we are proud,” said Johnson. “Our students get jobs—generally in their field of study—and handle their debt responsibly.”
“While the average student debt continues to climb everywhere, our average student debt at graduation remains manageable, as evidenced that USF students have maintained a loan default rate that is significantly lower than national and state averages. Our students borrow reasonably, graduate and get jobs in their fields,” he said.
Attending the breakfast presentation were Joliet Mayor Thomas Giarrante; Joliet City Councilmen Larry Hug, of District 1, and Bob O’Dekirk, District 2; Joliet City Manager Richard Hock; Will County Executive Larry Walsh, Sr.; Will County Board members Diane Seiler-Zigrossi, District 0, Crest Hill, and Denise Winfrey, District 8, Joliet; Frankfort Mayor James Holland; and Grundy County Board members Frank Halprin and Richard Joyce. Bart Ellefritz, Deputy Downstate Director for U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin was also in attendance.
The University of St. Francis in Joliet serves 3,400 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in arts and science, business, education, nursing, health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit www.stfrancis.edu.
Nancy Pohlman, Executive Director of Community Relations
(815) 740-3379 / firstname.lastname@example.org