SIC and RLC in top 15% in the Nation Per the Aspen Institute

November 5, 2019

Small but mighty has long been a theme for Southern Illinois community colleges, and the commitment of two area colleges has brought them some prestigious recognition.  Southeastern Illinois College and Rend Lake College have both been named as eligible candidates for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.  Only 15% of community colleges nationwide are invited to apply for the Aspen Prize biannually. 

The Aspen Prize is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. With a singular focus on student success, the Aspen Prize recognizes institutions with outstanding achievements in four areas: learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.

“It’s an almost indescribable honor to be ranked among the top community colleges in the nation,” said SIC President Jonah Rice. “This honor is a testament to the determination that both our institutions’ fine faculty and staff members show in providing for students’ needs, and the dedication our students have maintained on their pathways to continued success.”

The two colleges have been collaborating for more than six years, sharing instructors, joint programs, and services and have plans to share even more in the future.

“With limited state funding and shrinking populations, we have to explore new ways to deliver for our students,” said RLC President Terry Wilkerson. “We are doing more with less. The major share of that comes from quality people. Our faculty and staff are hardworking, dedicated individuals. Getting recognized nationally for what we are doing locally makes us very proud.”    

The top ten finalists for the 2019 Aspen Prize will be named in May 2020. The Aspen Institute will then conduct site visits to each of the finalists and collect additional quantitative data, including employment and earnings data. A distinguished Prize Jury will select a grand prize winner, finalist(s) with distinction, and rising star(s) in spring 2021. To read more on the selection process, visit:

Additionally with the Aspen Institute honor, SIC and RLC are eligible to apply for a second important Aspen program: The Excellence and Equity in Community College STEM Award, which recognizes outstanding community college STEM programs. Colleges eligible to apply for both awards are diverse institutions that have helped students achieve strong outcomes in the classroom and in the workplace after graduation.

 “Our partnership has spilled over to sharing the ‘secrets’ of our success, as in retention, persistence, and completion efforts,” said Rice.  “We really work together to make each other better. We’ve been given the distinction multiple times in large part from sharing ideas with our friends at Rend Lake.”

“This is the sixth time Rend Lake College has been honored as a top 150 college by the Aspen Institute — every year they’ve had it,” Wilkerson added. “That’s a pretty big affirmation that we take a close look at the needs of our students and we put them first.”

Rend Lake College is located on the eastern shore of beautiful Rend Lake. Students at Rend Lake College enjoy the small class sizes and personalized instruction from a college small enough to get to know you on a personal basis, but large enough to meet your educational needs. RLC offers a wide variety of degree programs and occupational certificates in more than 100 programs of study, and convenient locations with campuses in Ina, Mt. Vernon and Pinckneyville. Student journeys start at Rend Lake College. Visit, call (618) 437-5321, or email us at

Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg with an extension center in Carmi was founded in 1960 and ranks ninth in the state for degree and certificate completion, offering more than 80 degree and certificate programs. At $106 per credit hour, SIC boasts one of the lowest tuition rates in the region, saving transfer students more than $40,000 in overall college costs during their first two years of college.  SIC offers online classes, dual credit for local high schools, accelerated courses, night classes and community education opportunities. For more information, visit or call 618-252-5400.