More Iowa community college students enrolled part time, taking classes online

Report shows slight enrollment decline; average student 24 years old

Changing patterns in enrollment and credit hours at Iowa's 15 community colleges suggest a trend toward more students studying part time, according to an annual report released Thursday.

Of the 152,469 students enrolled at the state's community colleges in 2011-12, 75 percent were enrolled part time, according to the annual Condition of Iowa's Community Colleges report presented to the State Board of Education Thursday.

While community college enrollment declined 1.7 percent from Fiscal Year 2011 to Fiscal Year 2012, total credit hours taken by students declined 4.8 percent in that time, which may be due to the increase in the students who are enrolled on a part-time basis, according to the report.

The enrollment decline in fiscal 2012 was the first decline from a previous year's enrollment since 1999, the report says. Even with that decline, total community college enrollment has increased 21 percent since 2007.

Of the 152,469 total enrollment in 2012, 39,570, or 26 percent, were high school students participating in joint enrollment programs, and 59,359 students, or 39 percent, were enrolled in at least one online course, the report states.

Growth in online programs was another trend noted in the annual report. Online credit enrollment at Iowa community colleges increased 2.5 percent in 2012. Since 2007, online enrollment has grown 82.4 percent.

Health science was by far the most popular enrollment area in career and technical education, followed by business, management and administration, then manufacturing.

The average student age at Iowa community colleges in 2012 was 24 years old.

"The concept of a 'traditional student,' one who enrolls full-time immediately after high school, is less accurate today than it was a generation ago," the report says.

Among students of the 2010 cohort, 50.1 percent either transferred to a four-year school or graduated from a community college within three years.

"Although college completion is a primary effort among community colleges throughout Iowa and the nation, completing a program is not necessarily a goal for many students," the report states.

On the financial side, tuition and fees made up 57.8 percent of community college revenues in 2012, up from 47.5 percent in 2008. State general aid decreased in that time, from 37 percent in 2008 to 30.1 percent in 2012, according to the report. Local support remained more stable -- 4.7 percent in 2008 compared to 4.9 percent in 2012.

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