Community College enrollment appears to be leveling off

DES MOINES — Community college overall enrollment in Iowa was down slightly in 2023.

Amy Geiske works in the Bureau of Community Colleges in the Department of Education. “This year we saw credit enrollment level off down just .3% from last year since peak recessionary enrollment in 2012 there’s been an average annual decline in enrollment about at about 2.3% that’s in line with national trends,” she says. But that enrollment decline appears to be slowing.  “As we saw in the fall 23 enrollment, there’s just a slight uptick, so we hope to see that in next year’s annual report,” Geiske says. ”Credit Hours are holding steady with a .05 decrease in student credit hours, so almost even. Credit hour totals a little over 1.5 million, with an average credit hours at 13.1 per student.”

The number of high school students taking community college classes continues to increase. “This past year over 52,000 high school students enrolled in joint enrollment This is up from over 50,000 in the previous year, so a 5.6% increase in headcount joint enrollment,” she says.

The high schoolers taking those college classes have a major impact. “In total, joint enrollment students comprise 45 percent of all headcount enrollment at our state’s community colleges this past year. That’s a record high,” Geiske says. “At two colleges, NICC and DMACC, joint enrollment students accounted for over 50 percent of their headcount enrollment. And we have six colleges where they were over 30 percent of total credit hours.” She says the success rate of students who graduated or transferred from a community college to another school was up 3% to nearly 53%.