Ed-department-signFall enrollment in the state’s community colleges was down a little less than half a percent. Department of Education Community Colleges Bureau Chief, Kent Farver, says it’s a sign of the economic situation in the state.

“The unemployment rate kind of corresponds to enrollment in community colleges. When unemployment goes up, enrollment usually goes up, when unemployment goes down, enrollment usually drops down,” Farver says. “And really you start to see the change from full time enrollment, to part-time enrollment because they are going back to work.”

Iowa’s unemployment rate hit 4.2-percent in December of 2013, it’s lowest point since 2008, and after inching up and then back down, ended at 4.3-percent in December of this year. Community college enrollment has been adjusting since it shot up in 2009 and 2010 as workers look to community colleges to upgrade their skills or train for new jobs after being laid off. “I think we’re just trying to get back to normal after the recession, and I think we’re trying to figure out where that new normal is,” Farver says.

Community college enrollment has fallen about 12 percent since 2010. Farver says as they work on that “new normal” they’re trying to do more to let high school graduates and others know about the careers that are available with a community college degree. “Understanding that with those middle skill jobs, it’s not always a four-year degree that’s required to obtain a good job, a middle-income job, and a job where a person can be self supporting,” Farver says. “Trying to get the information out, and that there are other opportunities is important, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The fall community college enrollment was 93,772 students, a drop of .49 percent.