More and more students are taking advantage of everything Rend Lake College has to offer, enabling the comprehensive community college to reach yet another milestone.
RLC's full-time equivalency (FTE) rose 7.6 percent from 2006 to 2007, climbing from 2,270 to 2,443. FTE is a number reached by dividing the total number of credit hours generated by a full-time credit-hour load. In essence, it answers the question of how many students an institution would have based on credit hours if every student took a full-time load.
RLC's percentage increase in FTE was the highest in the state for any community college district. Kennedy-King College, which is a member of the City Colleges of Chicago system, was up 14.3 percent, but the City Colleges of Chicago system as a whole was down 0.8 percent.
"We are very pleased to have the largest increase in FTE of any community college in the state," said RLC President Mark S. Kern.
Kern pointed out the weight of full-time equivalency versus head count when it comes to community colleges.
"FTE is much more important than head count," he said. "A student taking one credit hour will apply to head count where it takes a student enrolled in 15 to 16 credit hours to generate one FTE."
Several factors have contributed to the rise in FTE. The Radiologic Technology program at RLC is in its first year and currently has 20 full-time students, and many more are ready to enroll. The Wireless Communications Technology program has increased in enrollment, as has the Culinary Arts program, which now has a second laboratory facility up and running.
The college recently increased the number of Associate Degree Nursing students it can accept at any one time to 80, and the new Certified Nurse Assistant Training Center at the RLC MarketPlace in Mt. Vernon continues to move students during its second year of operation.
This also is the second full year of the Heavy Equipment Technology program's partnership with Fabick CAT, a vocational program which has been wildly popular.
Notably, dual-credit numbers are not even included in these figures yet. Dual-credit classes are college-level classes which in-district high-school students take during their regular school days, for which they earn college credit.
Kern also pointed out that continued recruitment efforts have helped attract students to RLC. The college has had a full-time recruiter, Jason Swann, since May 2005.
In recent years, the college has added several athletic teams, including Women's Cross-Country, Women's Track and Field, Wrestling and the Laker Girls Dance Team, as well as a Forensics team. Each member of these teams must take and pass at least 12 credit hours per semester.
Another factor which often influences a student's decision about higher education is cost. RLC's tuition currently is $69 per credit hour, and the college's textbook rental program greatly reduces the cost of books. Compared to the average tuition at a four-year university, coupled with the cost of room, board and books, savings for an individual student can reach thousands of dollars.
Late last year, Rend Lake College was ranked the fastest-growing community college in the nation among colleges with between 2,500 and 4,999 students by Community College Week, a journal targeted at community and technical colleges nationwide.
RLC itself has seen record increases in enrollment in recent years, with another record possible this year.