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DECATUR — Richland Community College and Millikin University announced on Wednesday a dual admission program for those seeking a bachelor of science in nursing.

Richland President Cristobal Valdez welcomed the administrators from Millikin who attended the news conference in the Schrodt Health Education Center on Richland's campus.

“It's apropos that you all came to campus, because we're going to send all our students to you,” he joked.

“When we first talked about this, it occurred to me that this is a manifestation of the work that's happening here in Decatur,” he said. “It's cooperation and working together to benefit the citizens of this community.”

Richland and Millikin have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship, he said, and this agreement is further evidence of it.

Millikin President Patrick White said some 300 of Millikin's current students have earned at least some credits at Richland, ranging from one or two classes to students who earned an associate degree at Richland and transferred to Millikin to complete their bachelor's degrees.

With the Macon Matters grant, which provides all Macon County students a $22,000 scholarship to Millikin, he said, he expects even more. The nursing students will be eligible for that scholarship, too.

“This is an exciting new step in a longtime relationship and a relationship of collaboration between Richland Community College and Millikin University,” White said. “As (Valdez) rightly said, we are all in the extraordinary, wonderful and important game of concerning ourselves with how do we staff the health professions of the future.

"We all know the national nursing shortage, we all know the nursing shortage in the state and we think we at Richland Community College and Millikin have one answer to that. Let the strength of Millikin and Richland Community College come together so we can work in ways that will benefit our students and use the strengths of both of our institutions.

Florence Nightingale, he added, would be pleased. She was the orignator of modern nursing practices and training and “one formidable administrator,” he said.

Recent recommendations nationally have suggested that health care organizations should seek to have a minimum of 80 percent of their registered nurses with a bachelor's degree, said Elizabeth Gephart, acting director of Millikin's School of Nursing, and more and more students are choosing to continue their educations in pursuit of one.

“What we're announcing today is a dual admission designed for nurses who are coming into Richland to be able to apply to Millikin at the same time they're taking their first courses at Richland," Gepart said.

"We're saying, if you start at Richland, you have a place, a home, at Millikin as well," she said.

The agreement will provide students the opportunity to apply to both Richland and Millikin's programs simultaneously, with advisers who can guide them through their education at both institutions. The hope is to make the transition seamless. Students who complete their associate degree at Richland and pass the national licensure exam can move immediately into the bachelor's completion program at Millikin, which will be a mix of online and classroom, plus clinical experience.

“I'm very proud of the quality of education that students receive here at Richland,” said Ellen Colbeck, dean of health professions at Richland. “Our faculty provide great experiences for students. As Dr. Gephart said, it's also important that we have ways for our graduates to transition to baccalaureate programs. This program recently signed allows us connect them to baccalaureate education while enrolled in our program.”

Students must commit to pursuing a bachelor's degree to put those wheels in motion, and once they do, they can receive a 10 percent tuition discount at Millikin for three years, which will allow part-time study while working if necessary. Completing the bachelor's degree after finishing Richland's program and passing the liscensure exam can take as little as one year.

Jacob Rotramel of Decatur already planned to pursue a bachelor's degree when he finishes at Richland but had not yet decided where he would study, he said, but now he can plan on Millikin. He's in his third semester of four and hopes to be a critical care nurse.

“After this, I'm definitely going to go to Millikin,” he said. “I've talked to people here and that's the way I'm going to go.”

Shelby Beiler, of Macon, said she wants to be a traveling nurse, and a bachelor's degree will allow her to work in any state, which an associate degree alone might not.

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Herald & Review.

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