LINCOLN — Lincoln College has received approval to add four more baccalaureate programs this fall and is ahead of schedule in its transition back to being a bachelor’s degree-granting institution, said President David Gerlach.
Starting this fall, Lincoln College will offer bachelor degrees in community and human services, conservation biology, exercise science and vocal performance.
The Higher Learning Commission, the college’s accrediting body, approved the programs this week.
Lincoln College began offering bachelor’s degree in business management, criminal justice studies, sports management and radio, television and new media last fall at its main campus. It already had baccalaureate programs in jazz studies and theater.
Sophomore Meranda Vieregge of Lincoln was happy to see her major — radio, television and new media — expand to a bachelor’s degree.
“Now I don’t have to worry about transferring,” said Vieregge, a mother of two who said staying close to home will be helpful.
In addition, Lincoln College’s Accelerated Bridge to Education program in Normal, Oglesby and Peoria offers bachelor’s degrees in nine majors.
This is the first year since Lincoln College started its transition back to a four-year school that students enrolled in baccalaureate programs, including ABE, outnumber students in associate degree programs, Gerlach said.
Lincoln College was founded in 1865 as a baccalaureate institution, but scaled back to a two-year school during the Depression. Gerlach has described the transition to a four-year institution as “a natural progression” and “going back to our roots.”
When he became president in June 2015 and began talking about the transition, Gerlach thought it would take about 10 years. Now, he anticipates doing it in seven or eight years.
Next fall, the college will begin the process to move its sports teams from the National Junior College Athletic Association to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, said Gerlach.
When the transition started, Gerlach thought the school would add three programs a year. Instead, it added four last fall and will add four this coming fall. He said enrollment is exceeding goals.
Last fall, enrollment was up by 100.
“We anticipate being up 100 additional students this fall,” he said. “If we’re up about 100 next year, we will be up 150 the following year.”
Last fall, the college had a record enrollment of 1,068.
“We’ve brought in some phenomenal faculty,” said Gerlach.
The college is hoping to sell its Normal facilities, leasing back only what it needs. Once that is done, Gerlach said, the college’s debt will be “almost non-existent.” He said there has been “some interest” in the property, but no agreement.