INA – Chances are good that you are either a current or former student at Rend Lake College or you work with one, according to a recent study. Chances are also good that either you or your co-worker make more money now than before enrolling there.
The report, titled “Economic Impact of Rend Lake College,” was prepared by the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in partnership with the Illinois Community College Board and the Illinois Community College Trustees Association.
Modeled after a statewide economic impact analysis of Illinois Community Colleges, the economic impact study for RLC was commissioned to better understand the return from investing in the college. About 15 individuals from NIU, the ICCB and the ICCTA contributed to developing the report and a 25-member advisory committee provided insight and feedback during all phases of the project.
The study states that RLC contributes to the vitality of its service area in many ways – educationally, culturally, recreationally, civically and economically.
“Perhaps the least measured and understood of these are the economic contributions,” it states.
Supportive data show RLC adds skills to the workforce and boosts the competitiveness of area businesses while its graduates generate millions of dollars annually in local, state and federal tax revenues. Taking classes at RLC increases earnings for workers since students gain skills that contribute to higher earnings. Graduates of RLC enjoy even higher returns, according to the CGS at NIU.
Since President Mark S. Kern became the fifth, full-time president at RLC in 1991, the college has experienced an 18 percent growth in completed credit hours and an overwhelming 52 percent increase in the number of students attending RLC each year.
“We are very much aware that the college makes a tremendous impact in the district and not only because of payroll and expenditures,” Kern said. “Where we really make our impact is in improving the existing labor force.”
Kern added that having a community college close to home is valuable to those looking to retrain or continue their education.
“There are many people who would not have obtained a college education if it were not for Rend Lake College existing,” he said. “Many of our students are first generation college students and there is no doubt that they were able to do that because of the location and affordability of Rend Lake College.”
According to Fall 10th-day enrollment figures, the college is well on its way to establishing another record year in terms of head count and credit hours. Fall 10th-day credit hours are up 13.2 percent and head count has risen 11.5 percent from the same time last year. The fact that dual-credit has yet to be factored into overall fall enrollment is supportingly indicative that the college will be looking at a three-peat in breaking previous enrollment highs. Kern has said that the increase from fall 2006 could be as high as 20 percent after every credit hour is counted.
“As a major employer and business entity, Rend Lake College generates millions of dollars in local sales and wages and an estimated 608 full- and part-time jobs,” the study states.
Two primary sources of data from RLC District 521 were used to generate these findings. They are the financial and student data submitted by the college to the ICCB and Unemployment Insurance wage records which cover 96 percent of total wage and salary civilian jobs and are collected by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Using these data, the CGS examined student enrollment and completion data over a 10-year period and matched earnings data with students who graduated or otherwise left the college for two, full, consecutive semesters. It also looked at the effects of RLC expenditures and jobs on the local economy using economic modeling software.
The study found that nearly every employer in the area (97.4 percent) hired a RLC student at some point over the past 10 years and that four out of 10 area workers participated in credit courses at RLC over the past decade.
From 1996 to 2006, the number of students who completed programs at RLC increased by 36 percent. Occupational programs in health professions and related sciences experienced the largest gain.
Students who attended RLC in 1995 paid an estimated $51.87 million in state taxes and $200.48 million in federal taxes between 1996 and 2005, according to the CGS at NIU. The Class of 1995 alone paid an estimated $2.1 million in state taxes and $8.8 million in federal taxes in that same time frame.
RLC students who completed their education in 2005 and worked year-round made almost 40 percent more money than they did before enrolling at the college. A 25-year-old RLC graduate can expect a total lifetime earnings premium of more than $322,000. That is 26 percent more than the $1.2 million in lifetime earnings of a non-graduate, according to the study. Graduates working full-time averaged $25,342 a year. This is about 185 percent of the state’s minimum wage.
As a major employer and business entity, RLC contributes local sales, wages and more than 94 jobs to the local economy.
As part of its day-to-day operations, RLC purchases goods and services, many of them from local businesses. It also pays its employees, who in turn spend their wages and salaries in the local economy. Additionally, the community college invests in site improvements, remodeling, and new construction that generate additional expenditures and jobs.
The college provides an important source of expenditures and employment for the communities and area it serves.
In Fiscal Year 2005, Rend Lake College directly employed 207 full-time and 231 part-time staff with a total payroll of $14,602,646. In addition to wages and salaries, RLC reported $5.5 million in operating expenditures.
As these expenditures churned through the local economy, they generated another $1.14 million and approximately 76 additional local jobs. RLC’s total economic impact in FY05 was approximately $6.7 million, according to the study.
RLC is one of 48 community colleges in the state that play a vital role in the educational and workforce preparation of the individuals and communities they serve. An integral part of Illinois’ higher education system, RLC provides high-quality, accessible, and cost-effective educational opportunities for residents in a nine-county area in southern Illinois that includes portions of Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Marion, Perry, Washington, Wayne, White, and Williamson counties.
Founded in 1955 as Mt. Vernon Community College, RLC offers academic and vocational-technical instruction through associate degree, transfer, or certificate programs of study as well as adult and continuing education programs that serve as a gateway to higher education for many community residents, employers, and K-12 students. Courses are offered on the RLC Main Campus in Ina, at satellite campuses in Pinckneyville and Mt. Vernon, and through online instruction.
The findings and conclusions presented in the report are those of the NIU project team alone and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the officers and/or trustees of Northern Illinois University or those of the employees, officers, and/or trustees of the Illinois Community College Board, the Illinois Community College Trustees Association, or RLC.