State officials say a record number of students have enrolled at the state’s 15 community colleges this fall. More than 106,000 students are enrolled in classes at an Iowa community college.
Tom Schenk, Junior, of the Iowa Department of Education says there’s a connection between these enrollment gains and the depths of the recession.
“The recession lasted a long time,” Schenk says. “Of course it’s the longest recession that we’ve had since the Great Depression and in Iowa the recession started later and it ended later than the rest of the country, so it was a bit surprising but not entirely unexpected since the recession actually sputtered…through the summer.”
Slightly more than half of the people enrolled at an Iowa community college are full-time students. “Iowa’s community colleges have always been predominantly full-time students and that’s been the case ever since the inception of the modern Iowa community college,” Schenk says .”From 1965 to 2006 it was predominantly full-time students and then briefly for a couple of years it was more part-time students than full-time students, but because of the recession and because unemployed individuals are going back to college, it’s switched back to being more full-time.”
Overall enrollment at the community colleges jumped 14 percent last year. This year’s increase was five percent. Schenk is warning an enrollment dip may be ahead.
“Enrollment has only declined four times during the history of the modern community college — since 1965 — and every single time that those enrollment declines have come, it was after large increases of enrollment,” Schenk says.”So as we go forward, it will be interesting to see whether or not this enrollment growth can sustain. If there’s enrollment dips, you know, what is the impact of that going to be? And that’s a huge question and I know everybody’s looking at that.”
Almost 28,000 Iowa high schoolers are acquiring college credit hours before they graduate, a new record level for that group of students. Ninety-three percent of the students at Iowa’s community colleges are Iowans.