116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The number of Iowa high school students earning dual high school and community college credit reached a record high in the 2019-2020 school year.
Joint enrollment jumped to 51,800 students from 50,587 in the 2018-19 school year, a 2.4 percent increase, according to a report last month from the Iowa Department of Education. That includes students earning 216 associate degrees, 49 diplomas and 642 certificates while still in high school.
Eastern Iowa educators agree high school students dual- enrolling in community college courses have less loan debt from a higher education and are able to get into the workforce and earn income sooner.
Iowa high school students can earn community college credit at no cost to their families because of supplemental weighting provided by the state’s school funding formula and the contracts that school districts and non-public schools typically arrange with local community colleges.
Kristy Black, Kirkwood Community College executive dean of regional and county centers, said the increase is just “scratching the surface.”
“I believe we will continue to see this growth, and where we have a huge opportunity is in our minority and underrepresented populations,” Black said.
High school students participating in joint enrollment programs accounted for 40.8 percent of total community college enrollment during the 2019-2020 school year.
White students made up almost 80 percent of enrollment in Kirkwood’s program. The number of Hispanic students enrolled was 4.3 percent, and the number of Black students was 3.4 percent. Others included students of American Indian, Asian or Pacific Islander and multi- race descent.
Students dual- enrolled at Kirkwood were split between the career and technical education classes and the liberal Arts classes. About 57 percent were enrolled in liberal Arts classes, which include English, math, science and social studies. The other 43 percent were enrolled in the career and technical education track, which includes patient care, welding, architecture and engineering.
The Cedar Rapids Community School District reported 767 high school students were dual enrolled in the 2019-2020 school year — a decrease from 829 students in the 2018-2019 school year. So far, the district is again reporting a decrease to 668 students dual enrolled, which is being attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the derecho.
Black said this decline is temporary; she is seeing an uptick in enrollment planned for this fall.
The barrier to dual enrollment for some students may be just learning about it in the first place, Black said. Kirkwood is adding a college and career transition counselor next year to work with counselors in Cedar Rapids schools.
“We’re thrilled to have another person coming on board who will be spending 75 percent of their time within the walls of Kennedy, Jefferson and Washington (high schools), and be an extension of their counseling offices,” Black said.
John Rice, Cedar Rapids schools executive director of teaching and learning, said every high school student is encouraged to take at least one future-ready class. That could range from a community college course, a trade class or an advanced placement class.
“Some class that gives you some career pathway, whatever that means for you,” Rice said.
There is a disproportionate representation of students in community college courses in the Cedar Rapids district because fewer students of color are identified to participate in the district’s talented and gifted program, Rice said. The district is in the process of identifying students for that program in ways other than just standardized tests — such as through problem solving activities, Rice said.
Nick Proud, Iowa City schools executive director of teaching and learning, said the district is working to expand the program by identifying students who could be first-generation college students and encourage them to start getting college credit now.
School counselors and teachers work with students to identify who might be a good candidate for dual enrollment.
“We’re talking about career development even in our elementary schools,” Proud said. “One of the things we’re always trying to do is find options and opportunities for all our kids.”
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