Community colleges see slight enrollment drop

Fall enrollment at Iowa's 15 community colleges decreased slightly this year, the first decrease since 1994, officials said.

There was a .6 percent enrollment decrease at community colleges statewide this fall compared to last year. It was a drop of 622 students, to a total of 105,975. That's compared to a 5.9 percent increase in fall 2010 and a 14.3 percent increase in 2009. The Iowa Department of Education's annual report on community college enrollment was released Wednesday.

Community colleges usually see more students during times of economic downturn, Roger Utman, administrator of the department's Division of Community Colleges, said. Officials are seeing more enrollment fluctuations based on local conditions, he said.

Enrollments declined at nine of the state's 15 community colleges. Kirkwood Community College saw a 4.8 percent decline, to 17,610 students. Kirkwood remains the state's second largest community college behind Des Moines Area Community College, which saw 3 percent growth, to 25,425 students.

Northeast Iowa Community College, with campuses in Calmar and Peosta, saw a 1.6 percent enrollment dip, to 5,053 students.

The number of high school students who jointly enrolled in community college courses 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 declined 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.

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