Decatur, IL – Richland Community College is reporting an almost 7% increase in Fall 2023 enrollment as the Illinois Community College Board sees the second largest fall-to-fall enrollment increase in 30 years.
This fall, Illinois community colleges saw a 5.7% increase in headcount between Fall 2022 and Fall 2023 enrollment – which is the second largest fall-to-fall enrollment growth in the last 30 years. Only the Fall 2008 to Fall 2009 increase of 7.4 percent during the Great Recession was higher.
The increase in enrollment is reflected at Richland – where the fall-to-fall growth from 2022 to 2023 is 6.7%. This growth can be credited to a number of initiatives with community/government partners in the past year – including the Illinois Works’ Pre-Apprenticeship Program, the Earn While You Learn EMT program (a partnership with Abbott EMS), the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) Scholarship Program, and many others.
One of the stand-out initiatives is EnRich Healthcare – a collaboration with the Decatur Memorial Foundation to address the unprecedented shortage of nurses and health professionals in the area. Last year, the Foundation awarded its largest grant, $3.2 million, to expand Richland’s nursing and clinical programs over the next four years. EnRich Healthcare gives students substantial scholarship opportunities, essential skills training that includes trauma-informed practices, and the opportunity to learn and work on Decatur Memorial Hospital’s campus.
Since the program was launched in Spring 2022, EnRich Healthcare’s enrollment has steadily grown to 94 students. In December 2023, the college expects to graduate 15 Associate Degree Nursing (ADN)/Registered Nurse (RN) students and 18 Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). In May 2024, they plan to see 11 LPNs and 14 ADNs/RNs graduate.
Ashton Morrison is a current student in the EnRich Healthcare program who is studying nursing. Right now, he works at Decatur Memorial Hospital and plans to graduate in May.
When asked how EnRich Healthcare has impacted him, he said, “EnRich is more than financial support to me. It is a family that is willing to go beyond the doors of Richland. EnRich cares not only about my education but about my physical and mental wellbeing. I have freedom to focus on my family and my education.”
After announcing the partnership last year, President Cris Valdez said, “We have already seen incredible results in the short six months we’ve been working with DMH. It becomes clearer each day that this program will not only impact the students enrolled today; it will create a lasting influence for years to come.”
The college also credits the growth to how they foster student success. Richland has been removing barriers to education through their free mental health services with Memorial Health, on-site food pantry (a partnership with Good Samaritan Inn), IT support, tutoring, and free transportation with Decatur Transit Authority.