Iowa Central sees enrollment decline

Enrollment has dropped at Iowa Central Community College because of a strong economy and a declining number of college-age people in the region, according to leaders of the school.

Ten days into the current school year, there were 5,102 students enrolled in the college, according to information presented Tuesday at the Iowa Central Board of Directors meeting.

That’s down 5.6 percent from the 5,489 students enrolled at this time last year.

The number of credit hours the students are signed up for this semester is down about 8 percent.

Total credit hours are currently 50,683.5.

Last year, the total credit hours were about 54,000, according to college President Dan Kinney.

A typical course at the college is worth three credit hours.

To graduate in two years, a student should take an average of 16 credit hours per semester, according to Kinney. But he estimated that Iowa Central students are now taking 11 credit hours a semester because that’s what they can afford.

Kinney said that because state aid to community college has not grown “we’ve continued to put the financials on the backs of the students.”

But a good economy with low unemployment is one of the root causes of the enrollment decline, Kinney said. He said people are getting jobs so they’re not going to the community college.

He added that noncredit enrollment is expected to increase because Iowa Central is providing employee training to growing area businesses.

A lower number of high school graduates in the region also contributed to the decline.

“We kind of knew this was coming at us from the demographics of the area,” said Tom Beneke, the college’s vice president of enrollment management and student development.

Kinney said there used to be 29 school districts in the nine county region served by Iowa Central, but now there are 22.

There was a big spike in enrollment in 2009, 2010 and 2011 as former employees of the closed Electrolux plant in Webster City signed up for classes, Kinney said. But apart from that surge, enrollment at the college has remained steady for about a decade, he added.

“I would rather have this challenge than have the challenge of educating a lot of people who were just laid off,” said board President Mark Crimmins. “We’re not here to set enrollment records. We’re here to meet the needs of students in our area and the needs of the businesses in our area.”