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Enrollment in Iowa colleges, universities drops

DES MOINES — There’s been a significant decline in the number of students enrolled in Iowa colleges and universities, community colleges and trade schools.

In the fall of 2011, there were more than 363,000 students enrolled at an Iowa institution seeking a degree or training beyond high school. By the fall of 2018, that had dropped by 38 percent, to 225,000 students.

Jay Pennington of the Iowa Department of Education says that high point in 2011 was after the Great Recession.

“Any time you see those downward trends, typically higher education becomes a destination for many as they leave the workforce or perhaps decide to go back to get another degree, you do tend to see significant increases in higher ed enrollment,” Pennington says.

Total enrollment in Iowa’s 15 area community colleges has declined over the decade, too. An upward trend in Iowa’s high education is the number of Iowa high school students who are taking community college classes.

“We, as a state, are leaders nationally in concurrent enrollment,” Pennington says. “Between 2011 and 2018-19, we see significant increases both in the number of students enrolling in those opportunities, but also the number of courses that students are taking.”

Last fall, more than 37,000 Iowa high school students were taking college classes, too.

The number of students in the United States enrolled in college this fall dipped below 18 million for the first time this decade.

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