The following is a press release from the Governor's office regarding the Distance Learning bill on which Representative Pritchard was a co-sponsor. Look for Pritchard's quote in paragraph 5. 

Governor Quinn Signs Legislation to Ensure Quality Distance Learning and Online Education Programs 
 Also Signs Legislation to Streamline School Financial Processes and Extend Task Force on Civic Education 

CHAMPAIGN – Governor Pat Quinn today visited the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to sign a law to help boost the quality of distance and online learning programs across Illinois and other states. The Governor also signed laws to streamline higher education financial processes and to extend the Task Force on Civic Education. Today's actions are part of Governor Quinn's agenda to ensure that everyone in Illinois has the opportunity for a high quality education.

 “Attending college online is an important educational option more people around the world are pursuing,” Governor Quinn said. ”Illinois’ higher education institutions have found a willing and world-wide audience for these types of course offerings. This new law makes sure the educational programming offered online out of Illinois maintains the same high quality standards in order to help ensure all students receive a high quality education, regardless of where they live.”

 Senate Bill 3441, sponsored by State Senator Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) and State Representative Robert Pritchard (R-Sycamore), authorizes the Illinois Board of Higher Education to make agreements with other states to guarantee distance learning programs maintain common standards and that completed course work is recognized by institutions in each state. The agreements will also establish a mechanism for handling complaints and refunds across states and institutions. The new law is effective January 1, 2015.

 "Governor Quinn's action fulfills the legislature's goal to make high-quality, affordable online higher education available to Illinois residents,” Senator McGuire said. “This new law shows what cooperation between Democrats and Republicans and among Midwestern states can accomplish—lower costs for governments, and expanded opportunities for our 21st century workforce."

 “Distance learning allows students to take courses that may not be offered where they are attending college or at times that are more convenient for them,” Representative Pritchard said. “This legislation offers consumer protections that the courses will be recognized by institutions of higher education, and assures refunds will be made if the student takes the appropriate steps to cancel the course.”

 The new law will allow Illinois to join other members of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact to make distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines while also making it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The Midwestern Compact will interact with other regional compacts across the country. Any public college, university or independent institution can participate and seek accreditation, a designation that will indicate the institution has the “seal of approval” from the participating states for its distance learning programs.

 Last year through the University of Illinois, 323,857 students from around the world enrolled in online offerings through the Massive Open Online Courses including nontraditional students, professionals looking to build specific competencies and many other lifelong learners.

 By providing a broad range of affordable, flexible options, online learning has great potential to help many people across Illinois meet their education and careers goals. With nearly one in ten community college students taking a class online each year, online learning is becoming an increasingly popular option.

 Governor Quinn today also signed two bills sponsored by State Representative Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana). Senate Bill 230, co-sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), increases efficiency by saving schools time and money by removing an extra step in the public university vouchering process. Senate Bill 2728, co-sponsored by State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park), allows the Task Force on Civic Education to complete its mission by extending the life of the task force and setting a new date for its final report. Both laws are effective immediately. Governor Quinn has made support for higher education in Illinois a top priority. At his direction, distance learning is just one of the many strategies Illinois has pursued as part of a comprehensive plan to make postsecondary attainment more accessible to all students. Illinois is engaged in a number of innovative approaches to bolstering college completion including early college credit opportunities. 

In Fiscal Year 2012, almost 8,900 dual credit courses were offered through Illinois community colleges, providing opportunities for approximately 88,000 high school students during the past year. The dual credit system has seen tremendous growth with a nearly 125 percent increase in dual credit students served annually since 2004.

 As a result of these and other initiatives, Illinois’ college completion rate, which is above the national average, has grown to 43 percent under Governor Quinn’s administration.

 In addition to supporting expanded access to early college credit and career certificates, Governor Quinn has been a steadfast supporter of the Monetary Award Program (MAP) which enables more than 140,000 low income students to pursue higher education each year. He has proposed doubling the funds available for the plan over the next five years to provide 21,000 more students each year with an opportunity to attend college that would not otherwise be available.