John Wood Community College was recently ranked as the top online community college in Illinois by SR Education Group, a leading education research publisher.
Rankings were based on retention rate, graduation rate, number of fully online degrees offered and percentage of online enrollment from the National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (NCES IPEDS).
Online enrollment is a strategic growth area for JWCC and the SR Education Group ranking is another indicator of a continued upward trend. Overall credit hours delivered online through JWCC have increased 21 percent in the last five years and currently account for 30 percent of all enrollment.
“Being recognized as the top online community college in Illinois didn’t happen by chance,” Michael Elbe, JWCC president said. “It is a result of the hard work of our faculty and staff who recognized students’ need for flexibility and made online learning a strategic priority. They’ve found creative ways to make sure online students gain the knowledge and support to ensure their success. We still have work to do to continue to grow our online programs, and this ranking tells us we are on the right path.”
JWCC offered its first online class in 2000 and now offers 18 associate degrees fully online, which transfer to four-year universities nationwide. In 2014 JWCC was the first college in the region to package online courses in eight-week sessions through its innovative 2×2 program. The program allows students to take two online classes at a time to complete an associate degree online in two years.
In addition to the large number of online degrees, JWCC’s overall retention rate for first-time, full-time students was a factor in the ranking. In 2018 JWCC’s retention rate was 72 percent compared to the state average of 58 percent in the prior year.
JWCC’s graduation rate also played a key role in the top ranking. Community college students’ intentions vary widely from students who enter four-year universities. Many students intentionally enroll part-time with plans to transfer to a four-year university or enter the workforce prior to graduating with a completed associate degree. Even with those factors, JWCC’s most recent 44 percent graduation rate of first-time, full-time students is 14 percent higher than the state average of 30 percent from the previous year.
According to SR Education Group’s research, 75 percent of online college students live within 100 miles of their school’s campus, which makes the 2019 Online Community College rankings by state an especially valuable resource for prospective community college students. Many students may choose to stay in state because of tuition discounts, familiarity with the school, or flexibility for classes that may have hybrid, in-person requirements.
While 30 percent of JWCC’s credit hours are delivered online, 64 percent of students take at least one online class in combination with classroom-based courses. The College offers dozens of hybrid courses that feature a one-day classroom component combined with online learning. Most JWCC faculty also include online components within traditional classroom-based courses.
In addition to serving online students from within its nine-county West Central Illinois district and neighboring states of Missouri and Iowa, students from 12 other states also take courses from JWCC online.