Celebrating 50 years of community college success
By State Sen. Rich Taylor
The Iowa Senate recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of legislation establishing Iowa’s community colleges. Retired State Senator Jack Kibbie of Emmetsburg, who sponsored the bill in 1965, was on hand when we commemorated the event with Senate Resolution 35.
Sen. Kibbie said that at the time Iowa faced funding challenges for its existing junior colleges, southwest Iowans wanted a fourth state university in their part of the state, and then-Governor Harold Hughes was interested in vocational-technical colleges. They ultimately came together and created a community-college network that has become the model of the nation.
Our community colleges have provided training for high-demand, high-paying, high-skilled occupations and career enhancement opportunities for Iowa workers for 50 years. Iowa’s workforce today represents nearly 25 million credit hours of past and present community college training. In 2014 alone, the Iowa Skilled Worker & Job Creation Fund helped train more than 75,000 people at Iowa’s community colleges.
In addition, our community colleges are the reason Iowa is a national leader in providing opportunities for high school students to enroll in college coursework. Iowa leads the nation in the percentage of students under 18 enrolled in community colleges. This “concurrent enrollment” allows students to get a jump-start on their college education, saving them money and reducing student debt.
During the 2013-14 school year, high school students who also enrolled at a community college took an average of two to three courses. About 58 percent of the courses were in arts and sciences, while 42 percent were in career and technical education.
Community colleges are good for students and for the state. More than 86 percent of the students stay in Iowa after graduation, and more than 80 percent of students from an Iowa community college found a job within one year of graduating.