FORT PIERCE — According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, total college enrollment for spring 2022 fell (-4.1%) — marking the fifth-consecutive national enrollment decline. Community colleges were hit the hardest, but college-going among students at four-year institutions also declined.
Indian River State College (IRSC) is bucking this national trend. This fall, enrollment is up +8.9%, and with more students choosing in-person and hybrid options, all of IRSC’s campuses — Fort Pierce, Okeechobee, Port St. Lucie, Stuart and Vero Beach —a re bustling with activity.
The news gets better. The number of first-time-in-college students attending IRSC has set a record. With more than 3,200 students, this incoming cohort is +44% higher than the 10-year average (2,242 students). More than one-third of area high school graduates are attending IRSC this fall — a matriculation rate not seen in at least a decade.
“Enrollment gaps indicate that a significant segment of the population is missing the opportunities that higher education brings — impacting the individual, their family and the larger community,” states IRSC President Dr. Timothy Moore. “We could not allow enrollment to continue its slide. In early 2022, I challenged my team to break the mold and take immediate action.”
In March 2022, within weeks of the President’s declaration, the college rolled out the IRSC Promise program for students graduating from public and public charter high schools in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie County.
The IRSC Promise program is not a grant or scholarship. It is a tuition-paid program sponsored by the IRSC Foundation and funded through generous donor philanthropy and unrestricted investment proceeds.
“Data show that once a student steps on the up escalator of higher education, they will continue,” shares Elizabeth Gaskin, Vice President for Student Success. “We are confident that providing the opportunity to earn a tuition-paid Associate Degree at IRSC is inspiring educational awakenings for our Promise students—awakenings that will continue throughout their lifetimes.”
Eligible Promise students commit to full-time enrollment in IRSC Associate in Arts or Associate in Science/Associate in Applied Science degree programs. Promise students do not have to show financial need to apply. They must only meet the minimum 2.0 GPA required for high school graduation.
“Recent high school graduates have had a radically different academic and social experience than their predecessors,” continues Gaskin. “The Promise program doesn’t have academic or income requirements because the College didn’t want to penalize these students who navigated much of their high school careers during the pandemic, or their families, who, during this period of historic high inflation, might have to choose between sending a child to college or not.”
IRSC is one of only a handful of higher education institutions nationwide that have reversed the enrollment trend and stopped gaps in critical areas:
• Male student enrollment — the number of males and females in the Fall 2022 FTIC cohort increased similarly for both genders.
• Hispanic student enrollment — the fall 2022 FTIC cohort has nearly double the number of Hispanic students compared to prior cohorts. In fact, 71% of incoming Promise students are Hispanic.
• First-generation college enrollment — the number of first-generation college students in the fall 2022 FTIC cohort is more than triple that of the previous fall.
• Pell-eligible enrollment — the number of Pell-eligible students in the fall 2022 FTIC cohort is the highest in years, nearly +47% year-over-year.
“The investment in our students is certainly paying off,” concludes Michael Hageloh, IRSC Executive Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. “We are grateful to our Foundation Board and generous donors for their vision and unwavering commitment to the college and our community.”