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Community college enrollment declines slightly

Fall enrollment at Iowa’s 15 community colleges decreased slightly for the first time since 1994, according to an annual report released Wednesday by the Iowa Department of Education.

This fall’s 0.6 percent enrollment decrease follows significant increases in previous years, including a 5.9 percent increase in 2010 and a 14.3 percent increase in 2009. Enrollment has fallen only five times since the colleges were established nearly 50 years ago.

The community colleges enrolled 105,975 students as of the 14th day of the 2011 fall semester, the Iowa Community Colleges Fall Enrollment Report shows.

“Community colleges usually see more students during economic downturns,” said Roger Utman, administrator of the Iowa Department of Education’s Division of Community Colleges. “We’re seeing enrollment fluctuate based on local conditions.”

Enrollment slipped slightly at nine of the 15 community colleges. Last year, enrollment declined at only three of the colleges.

The number of high school students who jointly enrolled in community college courses also dropped by 1.9 percent. Historically, joint enrollment growth has outpaced total enrollment increases. This fall, fewer students jointly enrolled. On average, students also enrolled in fewer credit hours.

While total fall enrollment slipped less than a percentage point, the number of students enrolled in the two largest career-technical areas – health sciences and business management and administration – fell by 6 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

Prior to the decline, health and business majors more than doubled throughout the recession. At the same time, enrollment in manufacturing climbed by 11 percent this year, following years of declines that coincided with job losses in that sector.

Iowa’s community colleges are comprehensive institutions with statutory missions of providing transfer-oriented arts and sciences programs, career and technical programs, adult education, customized job training, programming for high school students, developmental education and community services. Community colleges have an “open door” admissions policy, which guarantees Iowans the opportunity for educational assistance and career development.

The Iowa Community Colleges Fall Enrollment Report 2011 is available on the Department’s website at:

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