Terry Wilkerson, President of RLC, and Dr. Jonah Rice, President of SIC, agree that working together benefits both institutions. The two will encourage other colleges to follow suit and share services and programming during a presentation at the upcoming Higher Learning Commission conference in Chicago.
Presidents Jonah Rice, Southeastern Illinois College, and Terry Wilkerson, Rend Lake College, are ready for round two of their presentation series at the Higher Learning Commission in Chicago in April.
The two said they are humbled to be invited back to present on their shared services and programming. They will present “Building Bridges, Not Walls: Continuing Construction” the afternoon of Sunday, April 8, during the general session of the HLC Annual Conference.
“It’s important to realize that we as community colleges are not competitors,” said Wilkerson. “We both share the same goals of providing accessible education and career training for the people of our districts, and there are a lot of ways we can do that better together by pooling our resources.”
The two colleges recognized many years ago that working together rather than competing against one another is vital to serving Southern Illinois students and also managing precious taxpayer funds. Their presentation is a continuation of one they held on the same topic last year at the HLC conference, and due to large attendance and exceptional reviews, they were invited back this year to present on their latest partnerships.
The colleges collaborate at multiple levels as they transform each institution as co-providers for programs as well as services.
“The old model of competition in education is being replaced by collaboration,” said Rice. “We are both stronger for it.”
The two colleges have shared academics with each other like Spanish and multiple general education courses. Career programs also have been shared such as nursing (CNA, ADN) and Criminal Justice.
One of the more assertive partnerships is the sharing of the Veterinarian Assistant program held between the two main campuses at SIC’s David L. Stanley Center in Carmi. The two will partner on Massage Therapy in the fall at the Carmi Center.
Services are also shared. They partner on adult basic education courses (formerly GED) and even maintenance personnel.
“This all only makes sense,” said Rice. “We’ve been asked to do more with less for years in Illinois, so we have to be creative and build these bridges to make sure we serve our students well.”
“We have been working together for several years, even before the state’s budget impasse, and that only made it more fitting for us to partner up and work together,” said Wilkerson.
The two colleges plan on more sharing in the near future, such as with a possible new allied health program and new venues in career technical education.
As partners, the two colleges are the largest community college in the southernmost region, and they actually have a combined freshman class that puts them on par with Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
“We teach a lot of students here at home,” said Rice. “And it’s nice to have a friend such as Rend Lake whom we trust and appreciate.”
Wilkerson echoed that thought. “We’re thankful to SIC for their friendship and partnership. We are looking forward to sharing our story and encouraging other institutions to look at new ways to work together.”