The president of one of Iowa’s 15 area community colleges says the institutions are more nimble than traditional universities, giving them the ability to quickly create new courses to meet demand.
“We’ve been very creative and I think that’s been the fun of being in a community college position,” says Rob Denson, president of Des Moines Area Community College. “We can start programs very quickly. We can end them if there’s no longer a demand from the business or no longer students who are interested, so we’re very fluid and fast-moving.”
Denson says within the next few years up to 70 percent of jobs will require more than a high school education, but no more than a two-year degree that can be earned at a community college.
“We’re probably as well-connected to business as any sector of education in the world,” Denson says. “I mean every one of our programs has an advisory committee from the businesses that hire students from those programs, so that connectivity makes us very responsive, entrepreneurial.”
For example, the Des Moines Area Community College is trying to meet business demand for welders and began offering another class three Sundays ago.
“We started a welding class that started at 10 p.m. and went to 2 a.m.,” Denson says, “because that was the only time we had available in our labs.”
Denson made his comments during an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program which airs this weekend.
Last year, over 155,000 students took at least one credit hour at an Iowa community college. Another 250,000 people took courses, but not for credit. Many were fulfilling continuing education requirements for their professional licenses.