The number of students taking courses at Iowa’s community colleges this fall is down. The Department of Education’s Community College administrator Jeremy Varner says this report gives a quick look at what’s happening at the school’s.
“This is really just a slice of those credit students who are enrolled in fall. And essentially what we’re seeing, is that at Iowa’s 15 community colleges, enrollment this fall has slipped about point-six percent, to just over 93,000 students statewide,” Varner says. He says the next report that they’ll put out will look at the entire school year enrollment, but this gives an early look of what is happening.
“Iowa’s community college enrollment throughout its history is generally a history of growth. There aren’t too many years where we’ve seen declines,” Varner explains. “We had such tremendous growth during the recession we’re seeing that correction — and now it appears to be sort of leveling off.” Varner says the overall drop in the fall came as there has been an increase in high school students taking community college courses.
“That was up over five percent. Over the past several years we continue to see year-over-year growth in that area. Students graduating from high school today have many more opportunities to pursue college credit course work than students did ten years ago,” Varner says. Varner says you need to look at the individual community colleges to get a clearer picture of the enrollment.
“We had about six see enrollment gains, while eight saw declines this past year. And there is a variety of different factors and you have to kind of look at the trend lines to really see what is going on there,” according to Varner. “You know there is a lot of different reasons for that variability, but some saw declines as much as eight percent this fall, and some saw growth as much as eight percent.”
He says keeping enrollment steady is important to these schools. “Community colleges are more tuition dependent than they were 15 years ago. So, when institutions see declines in enrollment, they really feel it,” Varner says. Iowa Valley saw the largest drop in fall enrollment at 6.6 percent, Des Moines Area Community College dropped 5.2 percent, Western Iowa Tech last 3.8 percent, Northeast Iowa 1.4 percent, Iowa Lakes lost one percent of its enrollment, while Iowa Central and Iowa Western lost nine-tenths of a percent. North Iowa Area lost one-tenth of one percent.
Indian Hills Community College saw the biggest gain of 8.2 percent, followed by Kirkwood at 3.8 percent, Southwestern was up 3.5, Northwest was up 3.1, Eastern Iowa had a 3 percent increase and Hawkeye Community College saw a 1.5 percent increase.
Varner says each school has some key things that impact their enrollment. “Each institution has its own context, it has its own labor market conditions, they have their own recruitment efforts, they have their own competitors, all these things sort of bleed over each other,” he says. The community college enrollment is made up of 90 percent Iowans, and around 40 percent are full time students.