Immerse yourself in Knowledge Town.

People yearn to learn here, to grow, to better themselves and their communities.

That is reflected in an explosion of educational opportunities for a growing diversity of residents and students in Richmond and the immediate area.

Enrollments in higher learning institutions are rising here far faster than most places in Indiana. Classes and educational programs are offered in a large array of ways: at four thriving colleges and on the campus of Reid Hospital, at churches and in community rooms, in art centers and seminaries, in museums and a lot more places.

The local public school districts in Wayne County (at Centerville, Fountain City, Hagerstown, Cambridge City and Richmond) have made significant recent gains in test scores and graduation rates and are reaching out with new programs, including hosting teachers and students from China. Seton Catholic’s flourishing program is leading local growth in private schools.

Richmond can boast more than 11,000 students on its college campuses, which include Earlham College, Ivy Tech Community College and regional campuses of Indiana and Purdue universities. Bethany Theological Seminary and Earlham School of Religion serve dozens more for postgraduate studies.

The total number is about one-fourth of Wayne County’s entire population. The majority of those students are from Wayne County and plan to live here after they earn their degrees. For thousands, though, education here is a portal to the world.

IU East and the Purdue College of Technology have a growing number of graduates working overseas. Richmond’s diversity is growing along with development of the campuses and their relationships with the community. There is a solid focus on partnering resources to ensure a stronger future. Ivy Tech is positioned to help train workforces through programs customized to the needs of employers.

Earlham College has long encouraged diversity and overseas programs in one of the oldest and highly-regarded liberal-arts program in the country. It represents the roots of Quaker influence here. Quakers first settled Richmond in 1806 and the college was founded in 1847. Earlham boasts having students from more than 80 countries in a population that numbers about 1,200. It also boasts being ranked in the Top 60 of colleges nationally by Forbes Magazine.

Earlham is in the midst of some major projects that are designed to enhance campus offerings and boost student numbers by about one-third to 1,500.

The campus is taking on new looks with the addition of a welcome center that was built in a historic hall located at the main campus entrance. Earlham also is adding a new science library and a complex for visual and performing arts.

Changes also have become the norm at IU East, which is adding classrooms, degree options and sports programs. With nearly 4,500 students, it is the fastest growing of IU’s eight campuses. Enrollment has doubled in the last six years and risen for 17 straight years. IU East offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degrees.

It recently added a worldwide distinction — a partnership with the Women’s Tennis Association for distance learning with its members. Champion player Venus Williams is enrolled in the program.

Privately-financed housing units are also being built. IU East shares a campus location just north of the new Reid Hospital with the Purdue College of Technology and with Ivy Tech. All are involved in partner projects to help businesses develop skilled employees and managers.

In that realm, we also can boast a bounty of community-educational initiatives: Those include Manufacturing Matters, a program designed to match worker skills to the needs of companies. The community has identified a gap and is working to address it.

The training is provided through the Corporate College at Ivy Tech and the funding sources are growing. The program has a huge footprint, with resources that range from economic development entities to social service agencies to businesses themselves. Manufacturers are key partners in the initiative.

Ivy Tech has doubled enrollment in the last six years to more than 5,000. It is well-positioned to enjoy synergies created by being situated next to IU East, Purdue CoT and Reid Hospital.

The proximity to the hospital makes it a natural fit for a burgeoning nursing program and many other educational connections.

The Purdue campus also has a strong focus on progressing business and industry in Richmond and the immediate area. Students can earn the same degrees locally as those at the main campus in Lafayette — and can also learn and update skills that are needed in technical fields. The school adds another diverse element to the local connection between education and economic development.

People often are invited to provocative discussions by national and worldwide leaders to IU East and Earlham College: from politicians to Nobel Prize winners to media pundits, from scholars to movie directors to world-class musicians.

All of the campuses are welcoming to community members. All of the educational institutions are welcoming to the future.