A recent report from the Iowa Department of Education shows the number of students taking community college courses while in high school has slowed, but is still at a record level. Jeremy Varner is a consultant in the Bureau of Adult, Career, and Community College Education.

“In past years what we’ve seen is year-to-year growth rates of eight to ten percent annually, which is quite robust. Last year when we gave this report, we saw joint enrollment grow 14.2 percent over the past year. This year we saw joint enrollment grow only slightly, 1.6 percent growth,” Varner said.

Even with the slower pace, joint enrollment was 38,892 last year, making a big impact on the state’s 15 community colleges. “Joint enrollment continues to account for about 25% of community college enrollment, or to put that another way, one-in-every-four community college students is also high school student,” according to Varner.

“So most of these students are taking two-to-three college courses through a variety of means, through senior plus programs and in some cases independently as tuition-paying students.” Varner said in most cases the students don’t have to pay for the courses, and it’s a great way for high school students to gain some college credit.

He said there are several reasons for the slower rate of growth in the classes last year. “In some cases, it’s simply due to a saturation point being reach, the colleges are working with all district within their service area, there’s limitations related to transportation issues. Indeed joint enrollment is slowing a little bit due to declining district enrollment in some parts of the state,” Varner said.

There’s also sometimes a shortage of teachers who are qualified to teach the joint courses. Varner says a majority of the community college courses taken by high school students are in the arts and sciences. “We also find outside the arts and sciences a large percentage of students are enrolled in career and technical offerings, getting a jump on career tech programs at the community college,” Varner said.

Those career tech programs include information technology, health sciences and architecture. You can see more about the joint enrollment program on the Iowa Department of Education’s website at:www.educateiowa.gov.