Student enrollment is at an all time high for community colleges, but it appears to be slowing in Iowa and across the nation. Nine of the 15 schools in Iowa reported a decline in enrollment this fall semester. The six schools that gained students reported only slight increases.
Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) President Rob Denson says his school saw a 3% gain this fall. “DMACC went up for the fall term and it looks like we are going to be up a few points in the spring, which is very good. In a market where most colleges are having declining enrollment, we are still seeing increases because most of central Iowa is growing and there is so much dynamic business growth here,” Denson said.
After DMACC’s 11% enrollment gain last year, the trade publication Community College Week ranked it the 15th fastest growing two-year school with enrollment of more than 10,000. Denson said enrollment soared during the recession because adults were returning to the classroom after being laid off.
He believes enrollment is slowing because the economy is improving. “Most workers, when they are laid off, have a certain amount of time to secure their education benefits. So, if you were laid off in 2008 – it’s now (2012) – so most of them have gotten their education and are now back in the workforce or are looking for work in some skill area,” Denson said.
Iowa Western, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges and Western Iowa Tech also made it on the list as some of the fastest growing mid-sized schools in the nation. DMACC, which is the largest two-year college in Iowa, will have close to 40,000 students this year.