Iowa community colleges break enrollment mark

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Last year, Eastern Iowa Community College District (EICCD) broke through the 8,000 student barrier for the first time in history. This year it topped even that.

For the first time ever EICCD surpassed 9,000 students with an official fall enrollment of 9,365, a 10.4 percent increase over last year’s 8,480.

EICCD includes Clinton, Muscatine and Scott Community Colleges. Locally, Muscatine Community College (CCC) also set a record with 1,969 students compared to 1,711 in 2009, a 15 percent increase.

“After last year’s enrollment increased by 21 percent, we expected some leveling off this year but that’s clearly not the case,” EICCD Chancellor Dr. Pat Keir said. “We are very pleased and excited to be helping so many students reach their future goals.”

The college district had some inkling that it would be on another record pace this year when many of its career programs began to fill well before the August 30 start of fall classes. Overall enrollment in those programs increased to 3,648 students, compared to 3,167 in 2009. EICCD offers more than 50 career programs at its three colleges.

MCC offers career programs in computers, nursing, office administration, horticulture, child care, farm management, feed and fertilizer marketing, manufacturing maintenance and veterinary technician. Enrollment in those programs increased by 19.3 percent to 605 students.

The college also recorded an increase in its Arts & Sciences programs from 5,313 a year ago to 5,717 this year.  In Muscatine, 1,364 students are enrolled in the college transfer area, compared to 1,204 a year ago.

These students are traditionally preparing to transfer to a four-year college once they graduate from one of the EICCD colleges. Transfer agreements with local private colleges and the state universities make it easy for students to transfer their credits to those institutions.

Dr. Keir said that recent building construction throughout the district has been very beneficial in providing room for the influx in students. The majority of funding for the construction came from a 2007 bond referendum approved by the voters of the district.

“The timing of the referendum and the construction of these buildings and additions could not have happened at a better time,” she said. “We are so thankful to the voters for putting their trust and confidence in us by approving that referendum. It has literally paved the way for our growth.”

That construction has included new science wings at all three colleges as well as the new McAvoy University Center on the Muscatine campus and a partnership in Wilton that has led to a new library and college center there.

Other areas in which EICCD has grown include online classes and high school joint enrollment.

The number of students in online programs increased to 2,837 district-wide, compared to 1,957 a year ago. Approximately half of these students are enrolled exclusively in online classes while the other half are in both online as well as traditional classroom-based classes.

EICCD offers a full online Associate in Arts Degree via the Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC), a partnership of seven Iowa community colleges. It also offers its own fully-online career programs in Health Information Technology, and Health, Safety and Environmental Technology.

A total of 2,085 high school students are enrolled in Clinton, Muscatine and Scott Community College classes this fall via joint enrollment programs. This is a 20.5 percent increase compared to 2009. These students are taking college classes while still in high school, which they will be able to transfer to the college they plan to attend following high school graduation.

Some students travel to the colleges to attend these classes but just as many, or more, are able to take the college classes right in their high school buildings. Clinton, Muscatine and Scott Community Colleges work with the local high schools to schedule the classes and provide the college faculty for them.

EICCD contributes the enrollment increase to a variety of factors including cost of tuition, availability of classes and a sluggish economy.

Many students, especially in the college’s career programs, are returning to classes after having been laid off from a job. Students in both the career and college transfer areas are taking advantage of the college’s lowest in the state tuition to save money on their four-year education. In addition, the college’s many different locations as well as online, day and evening courses make it easy for students to get to a class.