The longevity of any educational institution mostly depends on its capacity to keep up with the times and job market changes. Meeting these two criteria seems to be the secret to ICPR Junior College’s latest milestone — marking its 65th anniversary since its founding in Hato Rey.
In an interview with News is my Business, ICPR President Olga Rivera said the institution has come a long way from the days when it offered secretarial and bookkeeping certifications.
“We have to remain ahead of the employment trends to be able to develop those career tracks that allow students to find a job immediately or establish their own business, which today is one of the most important issues,” she said. “The government and private sectors are shrinking, paving the way for self-employment.”
Most in demand today, she said are short courses, usually lasting a year or less, in areas such as massage therapy, culinary arts and medical billing. In May 2012, the college will launch three new two-year associate degree tracks in sonography, forensic investigation and nursing.
“We have focused on offering those types of courses, as we keep up with the challenge of remaining current in terms of technology, so that students with or without skills see us as a learning instrument,” she said. “Kids today seem to come with that technology chip built-in, so we need to be able to offer them more than what they’re already exposed to.”
Branching out of San Juan
ICPR Junior College was founded in 1946, as the Commercial Institute in Hato Rey, with the mission of giving war veterans the chance to get an education and hit the job market running, she said. Less than a decade later, in 1955, the institution of higher learning opened a second branch in Mayagüez. Arecibo followed, in 1976.
But perhaps the most noteworthy expansion came in 2009, when ICPR became the first and only educational institution to set up shop inside one of the Urban Train stations. The school invested about $1 million to refurbish a 5,500 square-foot space at the Bayamón station to set up six labs, two classrooms and a number of other facilities, Rivera said.
“Being there has been a blessing because we’re able to offer courses in the morning, afternoon and evening, as opposed to our other locations where we only offer sessions in the morning and at night,” she said. “We help our students by giving them the passes to ride the Urban Train, so they can choose between the Bayamón or Hato Rey locations.”
Last year, ICPR moved into Manatí, where it also invested $1 million to deliver its educational agenda to students in that region of the island.
ICPR has some 1,700 students enrolled at all of its school branches and Rivera noted that number has been growing steadily in the last five years.
“Five years ago, we had 1,200 students and we’ve been growing each year at a pace of about 10 percent annually. We’ve been renewing the curriculum, incorporating new programs and locations and we expect to continue doing that in years to come,” she said, noting that ICPR is mulling the possibility of opening branches in Caguas and Ponce.
Furthermore, the Mayagüez and Hato Rey locations are up for expansions, at a cost of about $2 million, she said.