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History

ϱ (ϱ) was authorized by the Florida Legislature in 1959 as Indian River Junior College and has grown from a one-building structure to the community’s dominant educational and cultural center. The College moved to its present campus on Virginia Avenue in 1963 after the City of Fort Pierce donated 87 acres of land.

In 1965, with the advent of integration, Indian River Junior College and Lincoln Junior College merged, creating one college to serve students in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties. As the College continued to grow in scope and role, the Board of Trustees felt a name representative of the College’s comprehensive service was appropriate and, in 1970, changed its name to Indian River Community College.

Over the years, the College added campuses in Vero Beach (Mueller Campus), Stuart (Chastain Campus), Okeechobee (Dixon Hendry Campus), and Port St. Lucie (Pruitt Campus), and several educational centers, including the Blackburn Educational Building (Fort Pierce).

In 2007, ϱ was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to offer Bachelor’s Degree programs in areas of regional need. In July 2008, Governor Charlie Crist signed into law a legislative bill that included Indian River in the State College Pilot Project, providing the newly named ϱ the opportunity to expand its Bachelor’s programs to meet both regional and statewide employment needs.

In 2013, the College created ϱ Online to provide students with affordable, flexible, quality online learning opportunities that fit into their lives. Since its inception, ϱ’s online offerings have grown to include more than a dozen web-based degrees and hundreds of individual web-based courses.

In April 2019, the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C., awarded its highest honor, the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, to ϱ. The award is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. ϱ was selected from more than 1,000 state and community colleges following a rigorous review of data, strategies and outcomes related to student learning, degree and certificate completion, high rates of graduate employment, earnings for graduates, and exceptional access and success for minority and low-income students.

An era of unprecedented growth followed the introduction of ϱ’s fourth President in 2020. From breaking ground on the Eastman Advanced Workforce Training Complex—Florida’s most technologically advanced workforce training facility—to securing the single largest donation in ϱ history—$45 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott—to setting in motion innovative programs that make an ϱ education broadly accessible, the College redoubled its focus on its true north: mission, students, and community.

ϱ’s commitment to student achievement continues to strengthen. In 2021, it became an Adobe Creative Campus, putting the brand-building Adobe Creative suite of applications in the hands of students and employees absolutely free. Free access to Wolfram Technology applications and Bloomberg Terminal soon followed. Also, in 2021, the College was awarded a $4,961,238 Hispanic-Serving Institutions STEM and Articulation Program grant—the largest federally funded competitive grant in the College’s history—to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students who attain degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs.

In 2021, ϱ was one of only 16 institutions awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish a Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, which opened on the Pruitt Campus in January 2022.

Focused on transforming lives and rapidly transitioning to meet the needs of our students and service district, ϱ made headlines in March 2022 when it introduced the ϱ Promise. The program for eligible in-district high school graduates is powered by the ϱ Foundation. Promise students study at ϱ full-time, tuition-free, to pursue their Associate degrees.

In 2023, the College opened a new baseball and softball complex, a 50,000-square-foot School of Nursing expansion to double the number of program graduates, the 60,000-square-foot Eastman Advanced Workforce Training Complex and Advanced Manufacturing Hub, a new Child Development Center, and a technical vocational charter high school in Indiantown. It also announced its intention to build a data campus in Okeechobee.

In 2024, the College announced several new initiatives, including a comprehensive rail training program with GTABS, a Center for Ballistics and Emerging Technologies, and an expansion of its Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex for advanced emergency response training. Also, in 2024, the Men’s and Women’s Swimming & Diving Team made history as they successfully defended their titles at the National Junior College Athletics Association Swimming and Diving Championships. The Indian River State College Women’s Team collected their 46th overall title, and the Men’s Team secured an unprecedented 50th-consecutive national championship—the longest championship-winning streak for any collegiate sport at any level.

ϱ has a reputation for quality that inspires nearly 22,000 students to enroll in classes each year. ϱ stands out as an institution of higher learning dedicated to serving its surrounding area’s educational, career training and cultural needs. Although students from nearly every state and many foreign countries attend the College, it maintains its primary commitment to providing academic, occupational, technical, cultural, and service programs that meet the needs of its four-county community.

Governed by a District Board of Trustees representative of its service area, ϱ maintains an open, innovative administration; a dedicated staff; and concerned, well-qualified faculty. College faculty and staff members contribute to their community through involvement in many local organizations.

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