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Iowa’s Community Colleges should be a top priority

By Cindy Schulte and Kathy Pink

Cindy Schulte

Cindy Schulte

Kathy Pink

Kathy Pink

This year, Iowa’s Community Colleges will celebrate 50 years of exceptional dedication in providing high quality educational programs and services accessible to all Iowans. Iowa’s Community Colleges have provided a great rate of return on the investment of state funding by training a highly-skilled workforce that meets the demands of Iowa’s changing economy.

Did you know that 50 years ago, the Iowa Legislature created a statewide system that funded community colleges with revenue sources consisting of 39% in State General Aid, 28% in local support, and 14% from Tuition & Fees. Since that time, the funding sources have undergone a dramatic change. In 2014, Tuition & Fees at Iowa Valley Community College District (IVCCD) accounted for nearly 52% of the total general restricted revenue sources, placing more of a financial burden on our students to fund their education.

Did you know that Iowa ranks 8th highest in average student loan debt in the nation? As community college students bear more of the costs of their education, it has become increasingly important for Iowa’s community colleges to seek more state support to assist with reducing tuition costs to help address student debt.

Did you know that in 1968 Iowa’s 15 community colleges served nearly 15,000 students? In fall 2014, Iowa’s Community Colleges served nearly 93,772 students. Fifty years ago the Iowa Legislature created the community college system with an open door policy and broad course offerings, which have attracted non-traditional and adult students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Iowa’s Community Colleges have become “economic engines” in the state, responding to local, regional and state workforce challenges. Employers located in the communities we serve find our colleges to be a great return on their investment with the workforce training initiatives developed to prepare a highly skilled workforce for the global economy.

Did you know that as a result of collaboration with our area business partners, IVCCD has added the following programs during the past five years: Gunsmith Technology, Ag Mobile Service Technician, Powerline Technician, Utility Technician, Natural Gas Technician, Electrical Maintenance Mechanic, Electro-Mechanical Systems Technologist, Industrial Maintenance Mechanic, Automotive Repair Technology, Culinary Apprenticeship, and Precision Agriculture.

As competition for state revenues increases, the Iowa Legislature is faced with many fiscal funding decisions; members will have to prioritize the investment in state resources that are worthy of state support. We believe that Iowa’s Community Colleges and their students should be toward the top of this year’s priority list.

Cindy Schulte is Director of Governmental Affairs and Kathy Pink is Vice Chancellor of District Finance for Iowa Valley Community College District.

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