Students who complete a community college program earn higher wages, particularly in technical areas, according to a report released by the Iowa Department of Education.
The Annual Condition of Iowa's Community Colleges 2009 report, released January 14, includes a special focus on the workforce outcomes of students. The report finds that Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees are the most lucrative credential with a rate of return of 55.7 percent for a cohort of students who graduated or left college in 2002. This means that AAS recipients earned nearly 56 cents more for each dollar they invested in obtaining the two-year degree in a career and technical field. Over the six-year period of the study, completing an AAS degree was worth $41,962 more than the cost of tuition, fees, and forgone wages while in school.
"Two-year career and technical programs are a great value for students, however these programs are the most expensive for colleges to offer and with enrollment soaring, many are filled to capacity and have waiting lists," Judy Jeffrey, director of the Iowa Department of Education said.
Overall, students who completed a degree in 2002 had a six-percent private rate of return compared with those who left college early. The report supports research nationally, which shows educated workers enjoy higher earnings and lower unemployment rates.
The report shows that certain program areas pay off more than others. The career and technical programs with the highest rate of return were in law and public safety, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), finance, manufacturing, architecture and construction, and health science.
A significant percentage of community college students do not enter the workforce directly, but instead transfer to four-year universities. The report underlines how important it is for transfer students to obtain a bachelor's degree. A cohort of students who were awarded Associate of Arts degrees designed for transfer to a four-year university, but who did not transfer, did not recoup the expenses and lost wages from not being in the workforce by the sixth year after graduation.
The workforce outcomes portion of the report is based on a study jointly conducted by the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa Workforce Development.
The Annual Condition of Iowa's Community Colleges 2009 report provides data on Iowa's 15 community colleges for fiscal year 2008-2009. The report includes information on enrollment, student demographics, credit and non-credit programs, human resources, college finances, and more. Highlights of the report include:
- Overall, community college credit enrollment rose to 133,387 students - the largest in the colleges' history.
- Fall 2010 enrollment grew 14.3 percent - over double the average rate of growth.
- The number of high school students jointly enrolled in community college coursework grew 6.6 percent.
- Five years after graduation, 78.2 percent of community college students remain in Iowa.
- Enrollment in non-credit programs increased 2.8 percent, growing for the second straight year after several years of decline.
- Enrollment was greatest in programs designed to enhance employability and increase academic success.
- Apprenticeship program enrollment rose 14.2 percent over last year.
- More than 53 percent of Iowa community college students graduate or transfer to a four-year university within three years.
- Iowa's graduation rate consistently outperforms the national average, however gaps between students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds persist.
- Seventy-two percent of adult literacy participants achieved their goal of entering postsecondary education.
- The median age of community college instructors is 49 years old.
- Community colleges increased the number of employees to 12,710, nearly half of which were instructional.
The Annual Condition of Iowa's Community Colleges report provides Iowa citizens a tool for reviewing community college education in Iowa. The full reports, presentations, and other documents may be found on the Iowa Department of Education website at: http://www.iowa.gov/educate/ccpublications/