DES MOINES — The enrollment in the state’s 15 community colleges dropped slightly in 2018. Heather Doe of the Iowa Department of Education says the drop of around 15-hundred students mirrors what happened nationwide. Doe says it is due in part to a better economy. “That’s been a trend that’s really happened since we peaked back around 2012 –right when there was a great recession going on,” Doe says. “Since we’ve been in recovery, we’ve seen those types of numbers both in Iowa and across the nation.”

Doe says at the peak when the unemployment level was higher, more people were looking to get a degree or learn new skills at community colleges. Doe says one area that saw an increase last year is the program that let’s high school students take courses before they graduate. “We reached a peak of just over 51-thousand high school students taking advantage of joint enrollment opportunities this year,” according to Doe. “That’s up about two-point-three percent from last year.”

She says the increase is due in part to efforts to provide more access to the community college classes. Doe says they’ve been working on a statewide career and technical education redesign that has provided a lot of opportunities for student — particularly in rural areas — to go to regional centers and get access to community college courses they hadn’t had in the past.

The average age of credit students was 21-point-six with 80 percent of students under 25 years of age. Females made up 54-point-three percent of total community college credit enrollment. Minority enrollment increased to a record high of 22-point four percent. The Education Department’s Division Administrator for Community Colleges, Jeremy Varner, says the programs that provide degrees are not the only thing offered by the schools. “You know hundreds of thousands of Iowans enroll in non-credit offerings each year. And there are a variety of other services that community colleges provide within their communities each year,” Varner says. “So Iowa is fortunate to have a very mature and robust community college system.”

The annual report on community colleges in the state was recently presented to the Iowa Board of Education. You can see the full report on the Department of Education’s website