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Condition of Iowa’s Community Colleges & Radio Interview

January 19, 2010

The Annual Condition of Iowa’s Community Colleges 2009 was released last week which highlights a bunch of data collected by the Iowa Department of Education on Iowa’s 15 community colleges.

Some basic stats show enrollment increased to 133,387 students last year, which was a substantial pick up since the prior year. However, the emphasis on this year’s report was workforce outcomes. We already know education can increase earnings. But in order to further education students have to face a trade-off. Student must forgo income, pay tuition, and push higher earnings until later in life. Is that investment worth it?

Our analysis showed the rate of return was 6 percent, within the 6 to 14 percent range we see nationally. The returns varied substantially depending on the type of award. The Associate of Applied Science, which is geared toward workforce outcomes, had a 55 percent rate of return. That means an additional 55 cents for every dollar invested. Meanwhile, the Associate of Arts, targeted toward transfer, lost about 10 cents on every dollar invested. The lesson here is to take your AA and try to transfer and work toward the Bachelor’s degree–it’ll pay off.

Many people are interested in which fields returned the most. Law, public safety, security & corrections had the highest rate of return. Health, manufacturing, and science, technology, engineering, & mathematics also had substantial returns. However, business management & administration did not. We suspect many of those skills are not linked directly to a degree. Many students are able to learn important skill sets (e.g., keyboarding, Microsoft Word, MCSE, etc.) without obtaining a degree.

We also included some infographics shown here before, such as in-state transition rate and workforce transitions. You can find more in section 17 of the report.

Radio Interview

I’ll be on The Exchange with Ben Kieffer January 21st discussing the results. I’m scheduled between noon to 12:30 and you can hear it on 640AM or online.

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