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Iowa community colleges record enrollment growth for first time since 2010

Date: Wednesday, November 16, 2022

"fall enrollment"DES MOINES — The Iowa Department of Education today released a new report showing fall enrollment at Iowa’s 15 community colleges experienced a slight rebound following several years of decreases, which were heightened by impacts of the pandemic.

According to the 2022 Fall Enrollment Report, fall enrollment across Iowa’s community colleges increased by 502 students from last year. Overall this increase represents a 0.6 percent rise in the total number of students enrolled this fall at 82,251 compared to 81,749 last year. In contrast, community college enrollment nationally decreased 0.4 percent. Iowa’s increase in community college enrollment is the first since fall 2010 when enrollment peaked at 106,597 students.

“Increasing community college enrollment bucks the national trend and recent historical trends,” said Jeremy Varner, administrator for the Iowa Department of Education’s Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation. “Even with a strong labor market, we are seeing increasing enrollment, particularly in career-technical fields which lead to high-demand careers.”

Enrollment in career and technical education programs increased 3.2 percent over last fall. The trend is driven in part by increased access to career academies and state financial aid programs, such as the Future Ready Iowa Last Dollar Scholarship. Career academies are career-oriented programs that link secondary career and technical education to postsecondary education programs.

Other contributing factors include more high school students taking concurrent enrollment courses, which increased 4.2 percent over last fall. Enrollment of traditional-age students (under the age of 25) increased 1.3 percent and part-time enrollment increased 1.8 percent, representing 65.9 percent of total fall enrollment — an all-time high.

While fewer students enrolled in online courses this fall compared to last year, the numbers are above pre-pandemic levels. A total of 35,576 students enrolled in at least one online course, a 4.0 percent decrease from the previous year. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, 33,655 students enrolled in at least one online class.

Enrollment of both female and male students increased at Iowa community colleges this fall at 1.1 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. Nationally, enrollment of female students decreased 2.0 percent while enrollment of male students increased 0.9 percent, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

More information on student demographic and fall enrollment statistics can be found in the 2022 Fall Enrollment Community Colleges Report available on the Iowa Department of Education’s website at: