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Enrollment drops as services rise

Iowa Lakes Community College, along with others in state experience enrollment drop tied to better economy, very low unemployment

January 27, 2019
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Iowa Lakes Community College, with its flagship campus in Estherville, is one of 15 community college systems in the state.

The Iowa Department of Education's Division of Community Colleges & Workforce Preparation recently distributed its annual report. Some of the data in the report reflects recent trends in higher education.

Over half (50.6 percent) of all Iowa residents enrolled in a public or private, two-or-four-year post-secondary school are enrolled in a community college. This is significantly higher than the national average of 41 percent reported by the American Association of Community Colleges.

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Iowa Lakes Community College Executive Dean Lisa Stich said, "Iowa Lakes is pleased to be serving over 1,000 high school students registered for classes this spring semester alone. A recent study released by the University of Texas System confirmed what we had long suspected, that students who take college classes during high school have a higher GPA in college, and graduate college in higher numbers. We have a dedicated staff, led by Kari Hampe, who do a great job of working with our area schools and college staff to make the system work, and we are constantly working to make the system better and expand options for high school students."

The mission of the Iowa consortium of community colleges is to provide, "an open door for all who desire to learn."

It's an affordable option, and the rising cost of four-year colleges and universities is likely driving the increase in first time students choosing community colleges as the start of a post-secondary degree.

Community college is also a path to pursuing education close to home, the report stated. Nearly nine in 10 (88.8 percent) community college students in the state are Iowa residents.

Stich said, "Iowa Lakes continually adjusts its offerings, both credit and non-credit, to serve changing workforce needs. We are continually monitoring changes in workforce based on advisory committee feedback, employer partners, student intern sites and more. We have many staff engaged in working with employers and with economic development to make sure the college is poised to respond to emerging needs. For example, we approved several program modifications this fall, including all of our SERT programs, as well as others, who changed curriculum and added content needed for future success. One example is a new Networking and Data Acquisition course for several of our SERT programs, designed to train students on networking technology, protocols and installation procedures for industrial networks. We also update technology for student use, such as last year's complete overhaul of our graphic design lab here in Estherville, now outfitted with dual Macs and pen tablets at every station, and our new nursing simulation center in Emmetsburg."

The report showed that for academic year 2016, 8,037 community college students in Iowa did not enroll in further education after receiving awards and degrees from the colleges. Among those, 7,354 students were matched to employment, an employment rate of 91.5 percent.

The median annual wage for those who were employed was $30,920.

Stich said, "One additional project I'm excited about is our work with Institutional Learning Outcomes. They include: effective communication, problem solving and critical thinking, and professionalism and civility. We are integrating these core skills across the curriculum in a more overt way, because we know these are life and work skills that transcend all of our programs and disciplines and are in high demand from employers. We are thinking more deeply about how each of these skills is demonstrated in a specific discipline or field of work, and how to best prepare students for what they will face when they leave college. The research tells us that many of our current students will be employed in jobs that don't exist yet, so these broad outcomes are more important than ever to ensure students know how to merge these very human skills with the technology we increasingly see at work."

By 2025, 68 percent of all jobs will require education or training beyond high school. Some of these jobs will require a certificate or degree; others will require training that does not necessarily lead to an academic credential.

Stich said, "On the non-credit side, our new drone course has been very popular, training individuals on drone operation and protocols so they can pass the FAA certification required for commercial drone operation. Another new offering is in Cybersecurity, another timely topic on how companies can keep their employee and client data safe and secure."

Read more about the latest community college data and what it means for learning and jobs in the Iowa Lakes Community College region in Thursday's edition of the Estherville News.



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