SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS/WRSP) — Right now, the Illinois State Police is changing its policies to draw in more potential new hires.
Starting next year, you will no longer need a bachelor's degree to apply to be a state trooper.
They're lowering their education requirements so that more people are able to apply. Applicants will now only need an associate’s degree or 60 credits of course work.
The reason? There's a shortage of state police in Illinois.
In 2009, the state police had approximately 2,119 troopers. Today, they only have about 1,767.
"We don't have enough troopers out there in my opinion, We need to be out there patrolling the interstates," said Hector Alejandre, a master sergeant with the Illinois State Police.
Troopers are concerned about how this affects highway safety.
"Obviously having more high visibility deters people from speeding,” said Alejandre. "From driving under the influence and committing more crimes on the interstate."
Which is why they lowered the education requirements to allow more people to apply.
"We believe that in community colleges, folks from there will be able to benefit,” said Alejandre. "We just believe that this will allow more individuals to meet those requirements."
UIS political science professor Ryan Williams believes that this will open doors to lower-income applicants.
"A two-year degree might be more affordable for the population that can't afford a four-year degree,” said Williams. “Two-year community college is still very affordable in the United States."
Williams said a bachelor's degree does help in certain areas.
"An education helps them be more empathetic,” said Williams. “It helps them write better when they have to write reports."
Overall, he said lowering academic requirements won't make a big difference in everyday police work.
"There are some crucial differences where it does make a difference and that's when you're interacting with the community," said Williams.
ISP officials said they also offer tuition reimbursements if troopers want to go back to college after they're hired. They are actively recruiting for their 2020 state trooper class.