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Lost Momentum for Iowa’s Community Colleges

IOWA CITY, Iowa (March 22, 2012) — State funding for Iowa community colleges has dropped at the same time Iowans are enrolling in greater numbers and paying more for it.

“Despite the growing importance of community colleges to both Iowa students and the economy, the state is supporting it less,” said Andrew Cannon, research associate for the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project (IPP) and author of a new report for the Iowa Fiscal Partnership.

“Iowa community college students and their families are having to shoulder a far greater share of the cost of education. In just 10 years, the difference is stark — about a full week’s worth of pay for someone earning an average wage in Iowa,” Cannon said.

The report, available at, found that while state funding for Iowa community colleges rose throughout the 1990s, and recovered from a dip due to the 2001 recession, it has not recovered from the 2007-09 recession. Only stimulus funding from the federal Recovery Act has contributed favorably to community college funding since then.

When adjusted for inflation, the report showed, state funding over the last decade has shown a net decline — a real decrease in funding of 21 percent from 2001 to 2012.

“At precisely the time lawmakers cut state funding for community colleges, in FY10 following the recession, enrollment in Iowa’s community colleges jumped by more than 14 percent,” the report noted.

David Osterberg, executive director of IPP, said the report carries serious public policy implications.

“We are seeing this same trend with our public universities. It’s one thing to expect students to share in higher costs, but this is getting to a point where the state’s commitment to higher education should be called into question,” Osterberg said.

“Assuring that Iowans have the skills and knowledge they receive at our state’s universities and community colleges is not just an individual benefit. It’s something that benefits all of us and lifts our economy. It makes Iowa the kind of place where people want to live and raise their families, and send their kids to school. We must ask: Is Iowa being short-sighted with the way it treats higher education?”

The Iowa Fiscal Partnership is a joint public policy analysis initiative of two Iowa-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations — IPP in Iowa City and the Child & Family Policy Center in Des Moines. Reports are available at

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