New study: RLC remains a critical piece to regional economy and a source for job creation


RLC Wilkerson ILEIS pressconference edit

Rend Lake College President Terry Wilkerson discusses the Economic Impact Study during a press conference in Springfield on Wednesday. The new study explored how Illinois community colleges boost local economies throughout the state. (Click image for printable photo)

INA, IL (Oct. 1, 2021) –  Rend Lake College continues to help drive the local and surrounding area economy and train a skilled workforce for critical industries throughout Illinois, according to a new statewide report analyzing the value of the Illinois community college system.

The Rend Lake College’s Economic Impacts report was prepared by the Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University (NIU) under agreement with the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB).

“The economic study continues to highlight the positive impact of community colleges on their local businesses and communities,” RLC President Terry Wilkerson said. “Rend Lake College plays an instrumental role in its community by providing the educational needs and training opportunities to help drive the economy of the region.”

Statewide, Illinois’ 48 community colleges boost local Illinois economies and are important sources of revenue and employment for the communities and regions they serve, according to the study.

“It is clear that community colleges remain a solid return on investment for local communities and the students that use them.  Our system plays a vital role in meeting the needs of Illinois’ workforce by providing quality training and education and gives students a greater opportunity to earn higher wages in countless industries throughout the state,” said ICCB executive director, Dr. Brian Durham.

The report evaluates Illinois’ community college system on its ability to meet the needs of business and industry, equity, student outcomes, students’ return on investment, and the system’s overall economic impact to local economies and job growth.  The report also examines statewide trends including employment, population, race and ethnicity changes, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Community colleges remain a valuable resource for students of all walks of life.  We are committed to creating an equitable path to economic mobility no matter who you are or where you live through the Illinois community college system,” said Dr. Lazaro Lopez, ICCB Board Chair. 

Some of the highlights include:

  • The study found that more than 84 percent of students who earn a Long-Term Certificate or associate degree in applied science programs are employed in solid paying career jobs within a year of graduation. It also stated that 88 percent of students who graduated a decade ago are employed today, with the highest percentage among those in health sciences and information technology fields.
  • Investing in an Illinois community college Long-Term Certificate or Associate in Applied Science degree yields an average annual rate of return of nearly 27 percent, with an average wage increase of nearly 40 percent one year after graduation. In 2009, RLC students made an average $12,264 per year. They are currently made an average salary of $44,226, which presents an average growth rate of 26 percent.
  • Annual earnings are even greater in specific areas of study. For students graduating with Long-Term Certificates in Architecture and Construction programs, the average annual earning five years after graduating is $60,552, while manufacturing program graduates earn $54,378 in the same timeframe.
  • RLC’s degrees and certificate programs qualify graduates for the top two advertised positions in 2020: heavy and tractor-trailer drivers (9,136) and registered nurses (895).
  • The study also looked at Illinois community colleges’ impact on local economies. In fiscal year 2020, Illinois community colleges directly employed nearly 33,000 staff with a total payroll of $1.3 billion. In addition to wages and salaries, Illinois community colleges account for almost $500 million in additional expenses.
  • These direct impacts ripple through the economy creating additional jobs, payrolls, and other economic activity in Illinois. The total economic output of Illinois community colleges on the statewide economy in fiscal year 2020 is estimated at $3.5 billion and 43,316 jobs.
  • The college paid more than $6.8 million in wages and benefits in the 2020 fiscal year, created 50 indirect jobs and account for nearly $23 million in economic output.
  • Rend Lake College is an important source of expenditures and employment for the region. As part of their day-to-day operations, each college purchases goods and services, many of them from the local economy. They also pay their employees, who in turn spend their wages and salaries in the local economy. Additionally, the college invest in site improvements, remodeling, and new construction that generate additional expenditures and jobs.
  • IMPLAN Pro economic modeling software was used to produce estimates of the indirect economic impacts of Rend Lake College based on the direct impact Rend Lake College $16.9 million in operating expenditures during the fiscal year 2020 and the college paid over $6.8 million in wages and benefits to their 257 employees.
  • Rend Lake College supports local workforce and economic development services through employer and business engagement. During the academic year 2019, Rend Lake College interacted with 161 unique employers. Activities ranged from curriculum and apprenticeship development and review, contract training, internships and professional development to job placement for graduating students.

The Illinois Community College System and ICCB are committed to creating, supporting, and expanding workforce training opportunities equitably in high-need communities.  In 2019, Illinois started the Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) program, a grant program designed to increase workforce opportunities for African Americans which are severely underrepresented among Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.  Over the last two years, the WEI program has granted nearly $40 million to address education and unemployment gaps in the African American and other minority communities throughout Illinois.

When examining earnings one year prior to completion compared to three years after completion, African American student earnings increased 47 percent while Latinx students increased their earnings by 57 percent.    

To review the full study, please visit

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