Number of high school students taking community college courses rebounds after pandemic

DES MOINES — The number of students who took an Iowa community college course while in high school increased by around 6% in the past school year.

The Iowa Department of Education’s Jen Rathje told the State Board of Education that continues the recovery following the pandemic. “You can kind of see there was a slight dip after 2020. We are continuing to see participation, rebound and is back on the rise in the program,” she says.

Rathje says pandemic dip was only recent downturn in the joint enrollment program in the last several years. “From 2004, the growth has been 137.9% — with an average annual growth rate of 4.9%,”Rathje says. She says the program is popular because it gives students a jump on college and they are able to complete their degrees and enter the workforce quicker, while saving money.

“In Iowa, about two out of every five community college students are also a high school student. And so overall, jointly enrolled students accounted for 42.6% of  total community college enrollment across the state, and 11 of our community colleges enroll more jointly enrolled students than the state average,” Rathje says.

Northeast Iowa Area Community College had the most jointly enrolled students. “With 52.1% of overall student enrollment being comprised of jointly enrolled students, Followed by Southwestern Community College with jointly enrolled students making up 47.3% of total enrollment,” she says.

Rathje says the increase in community college enrollment comes along with a decrease in full time college enrollment. Nearly 43% of students who also took community college classes were seniors with just more than 35% juniors. The full report is available on the Department of Education’s website.