A varied slate of new and traditional programs and efforts to make Rend Lake College courses more accessible to students are among the causes of the record-high enrollment RLC has experienced in the past two years.
According to information supplied by RLC’s Office of Institutional Research, 2003’s record enrollment included a 27 percent increase in student headcount since 2000, up from 10,770 to 13,656, excluding students at Big Muddy River and Pinckneyville correctional centers.
In 2003, Rend Lake College saw the highest number of credit hours -- 65,843 -- ever reported here, which is a 15 percent increase since 2000. Also in 2003, RLC experienced its highest full-time equivalency (converting credit hours of part-time students to full-time loads of 15 hours) ever reported at 2,179.7. Both of those figures exclude corrections students.
The 2003 year was an enrollment increase over 2002, which itself was a record-setting enrollment year in terms of headcount. The headcount in 2002 was 11,973, credit hours totaled 62,363 and full-time equivalency was recorded at 2,078.8.
"The increase is not the result of any one specific thing," said Rend Lake College President Mark Kern. He said RLC’s enrollment not only is driven by economic forces, but also by the addition of new programs, the creation of new RLC campuses in Mt. Vernon and Pinckneyville and the implementation of dual-credit courses for high school students, among other factors.
"One of the big driving forces we see in enrollment increases is the economy," said Jim Hull, Vice President of Instruction. "When the economy takes a downturn and more people are unemployed, we see a rise in enrollment at community colleges. Some people are retraining for new careers and others are gaining new skills so they can become more competitive in their current careers.
"Another reason for our increase is new programs and new approaches," Hull continued. "Cosmetology has added several new students to Rend Lake College in the last few months." RLC recently became the first community college in the nation to become a Paul Mitchell Partner School. The program is housed at the Rend Lake College MarketPlace in Mt. Vernon, and the salon associated with the program, Studio RLC, is now open to the public.
Other new programs recently enacted include Massage Therapy (also housed at the MarketPlace) and Graphic Design.
"In addition, we are becoming more creative in how we make programs available to students," Hull said. In Fall Semester 2004, the nursing program will offer a weekend format for students who otherwise would not be able to attend classes.
"There is a much-publicized nursing shortage in America and the Rend Lake College district has as much demand going unfilled as any other location in the country. Rend Lake College is also making a greater commitment to on-line courses so students can attend virtual classes at any time from any location."
In addition to new programs, RLC continues to attract students with additions to programs already in existence.
Hull summarized, "All in all, it boils down to the fact that Rend Lake College is offering its students and potential students the courses and programs they want, when they want them, where they want them. We are being very responsive to our constituents and our success is proof of that commitment."
The Rend Lake College district came into existence July 1, 1967, and encompasses parts of eight counties, including the major portions of Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson and Perry counties. Large areas of Wayne and White counties also are included, as are small portions of Washington and Williamson counties.
More than 40,000 households and 13 public high schools are served by RLC. The district covers a total of 1,850 square miles, making it the 11th-largest district statewide in terms of area covered.
RLC now has major presences in two other areas, with the 2002 additions of the Rend Lake College MarketPlace in Mt. Vernon and the Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus. The main campus in Ina has continued to grow, with the addition of the Jimmy J. Fulks Aquatics Center and the RLC Foundation Children’s Center, as well as various expansions and renovations. Additionally, the state recently released funding for a new Career and Applied Technology Center to be constructed on the southwest corner of campus.