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Enrollment Growing at MCC, as Colleges Across Illinois See Declines

[Friday, October 25, 2019]
     

McHenry County College (MCC) is the only community college in Illinois that has experienced consecutive and significant enrollment growth over the last three years. This comes at a time when enrollment in colleges throughout the state and the country is declining, sparking much discussion in higher education circles.

This fall, MCC welcomed 7,475 students, a 6.3% increase from last fall, and a 17% percent jump from 6,371 students in 2016. Credit hours also improved, up 3.1% compared to last fall —a combined increase of over 8% for the last three years—distinguishing MCC as a success story amid an otherwise unfortunate state trend.

"We've put significant effort into student engagement and timely campus-wide student support by creating an empowering environment to increase their success," said Dr. Talia Koronkiewicz, vice president of student affairs. MCC has launched a combination of initiatives to attract, retain and graduate students, which include:

  • Creating educational pathways tailored to ensure student success in the community, while pursuing high-demand fields without leaving the area
  • Recruiting a more diverse range of students, specifically targeting the area's Latinx population for an affordable and high-quality education
  • Increasing collaborations with area high schools (including dual credit and dual degree programming)
  • Growing collaborations with local industry partners
  • Offering new professional certificate programs, as well as more classes online, at night and locally in cities throughout the region

As a result, MCC boasts of one of the fastest rates of academic growth. Total credit hours in Fall 2019 were 58,401, up 8.5% from 53,783 in 2016, and also up 6% from this spring. That compares to similar community colleges in MCC's peer group, such as Lincoln Land, John A. Logan, Lake Land and Parkland, which respectively saw credit hours drop during the last three years. In fact, the latest report from the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) indicates a drop in statewide enrollment (headcount) by over 4% from last fall.

While MCC has cultivated consistent growth, community colleges nationwide have seen their enrollment slide an average of 3.4%. Illinois community college enrollment and academic declines mirror colleges across the U.S. where enrollment has decreased for the eighth consecutive year, according to a report last spring by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The experiences of alumni speak volumes about what's driving MCC's enrollment. When Crystal Lake native Ralph "Chace" Davis started exploring colleges, he set his sights on attending a school that would challenge him and meet his unique financial and educational needs.

Davis found the cutting-edge opportunities he was looking for at MCC—the promise of an accelerated transfer to a four-year institution, affordable tuition, a flexible class schedule to meet part-time work, and an intimate setting with access to individualized mentoring from teachers. After earning his Associate of Science degree from MCC in 2011, he transferred to the University of Illinois (UIC) to graduate with a B.S. in Biochemistry and a Medical Doctorate in 2017. Now, Davis is completing his internal medicine residency at Mayo Clinic Hospital and is poised to become a hospitalist in 2020.

"I have no debt and had teachers who were personable, interested in my success, and helped me explore opportunities to pursue my dream in a healthcare career," said Davis.

Students like Davis drive MCC's mission to provide a strategic pathway for students' educational success in their future endeavors, whether that is a great job or a transfer to a four-year university.

"MCC is a great launch pad for individuals who are coming from a variety of different starting points and who have diverse educational and professional goals," said President Dr. Clint Gabbard. "We welcome them, work with them to build their skills, and then propel them toward successful careers and academic destinations."

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