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Thumbs up to this week’s announcement that the Murphysboro Re-Entry Center will open sometime in the next two to three months. It will be located in the former Illinois Youth Center complex that closed in 2012. The center will house Illinois Department of Corrections inmates with less than three years to serve and have exhibited good behavior. The facility will offer educational, job readiness and cognitive behavior therapy courses. The re-opening means 63 additional jobs for Southern Illinois residents. The opening will occur as soon as staff can be trained.

Thumbs down to the continuing problems being faced by Morthland College in West Frankfort. The latest issue is a move by the Illinois Board of Higher Education to look into the possible revocation of Morthland’s authority to operate and grant degrees. A hearing officer has been appointed to investigate Morthland’s financial stability, the institution’s relationship with sports academies and its record keeping. An IBHE report compiled in September outlines several violations of higher education statutes. This represents still another blow to the region. A viable college operating in the area would have been a major plus to the region. The newest investigation paints a bleak picture.

Thumbs up to Sen. Tammy Duckworth for opening a regional office in Carbondale. The office, located in the Eurma C. Hayes Center, opened Monday. The office will help ensure families across Southern Illinois can take advantage of services offered by the senator and her staff, including assistance with veteran’s affairs, social security, Medicare, small business development and other issues involving federal agencies. Previously the senator had offices in Chicago and Springfield.

Thumbs up to Southern Illinois University’s annual week-long international festival which concludes this weekend. The festival opened Monday with students carrying flags of their native lands from Woody Hall to Anthony Hall. International students make up about 10 percent of SIU’s enrollment. “I think that since we are internationals, it’s a great idea to build a community here. And since we are so far from our countries, it’s a great idea to share and to help each other … but if we don’t know each other, that’s difficult,” said Scarleth Subillaga, of Honduras, is finishing up a double-major master’s program in Spanish Literature and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Thumbs down to figures released this week showing Illinois high school students are leaving the state to attend college at a record pace. Forty-six percent of the members of the high school class of 2016 in Illinois who headed to four-year schools enrolled out of state, according to figures from the Illinois State Board of Education. That compares to 29 percent in 2002. “Illinois has had a history of out-migration for many, many years,” said Al Bowman, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. “The difference is it has accelerated during recent years, particularly during the budget impasse,” when Illinois went without a full-year budget in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 and higher education saw significant funding cuts.

Thumbs up to Saluki football players for their annual efforts in the Soupler Bowl of Caring. Members of the SIU football team stood at area businesses last Saturday, collecting donations for Good Samaritan Ministries and the Murphysboro Food Pantry. Last year the event netted $10 million nationally for food pantries, homeless shelters and other ministries.

Thumbs up to softball season. The calendar may still say February, but the SIU softball season begins today. That means that spring is just around the corner. Most of us in the region could use a break from the cold, icy weather of late.

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