INA, Ill. – Rend Lake College officials have dedicated more space to the nursing program on the Ina campus – a move that has increased fall enrollment by 33 percent.
“Our nursing program experiences more demand every year,” said RLC President Terry Wilkerson. “We don’t like turning applicants away. But it’s hard to meet increasing demand without increasing our facilities.”
Wilkerson said the nursing lab was designed to teach about 45 students in the Practical Nursing Program. That was 30 years ago. Since then, officials doubled LPN capacity at the college and added the Associate Degree Nursing option. Together, the programs have 160 available slots and are full every year.
A $6 million Allied Health Building has been on the college’s capital project request list for years. RLC’s Resource Allocation and Management Plan, or RAMP, is submitted annually through the Illinois Community College Board to the General Assembly. Blueprints call for the Allied Health Building to have a lecture hall, classrooms, simulation labs, a computer lab, study lounge, and offices for faculty and staff.
Considering the financial state of Illinois, leaders at the college decided to move forward on the expansion rather than wait for state funding of the Allied Health Building. “This expansion is a five-year fix,” Wilkerson said. “The Allied Health Building is the top priority on our RAMP.”
The summer construction project to build a bigger nursing program moved classrooms and lab space from the Science Building to the first and second floors of the Learning Resource Center. The move has effectively doubled the amount of classroom space available to students and improved the lab environment.
Randall Shively, director of RLC’s Physical Plant, said it’s roughly the same amount of lab space as before, but now there are three separate labs. In the Science Building, students learned in one open lab.
“It gives our faculty more flexibility to teach different curriculum,” Shively said.
Kim Robert, chair of RLC’s Allied Health Division, said she and nursing faculty members are thrilled with the new labs and classrooms.
“It’s going to accommodate 20 additional ADN students,” Robert said. “With new labs, our students are going to get a more realistic training environment. We can’t wait to start using the space.”
Because RLC’s Physical Plant staff was responsible for completing 95 percent of the work, nearly 6,000 square feet was renovated for less than $50,000.
“That’s less than $9 a square foot,” Shively said. “We cut our out-of-pocket expenses in half by doing it in house.”
The classrooms and labs are ready for students to use this fall semester, which starts Aug. 13. Only some minor updates to signs and shuffling of offices remain on the checklist. The empty lab space in the Science Building is being dedicated to new science labs. The college has submitted a federal grant application for that project.
Additional information about RLC’s Allied Health programming is available online at www.rlc.edu/allied-health, or by calling 618-437-5321, Ext. 1251.