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Getting an early start – Iowa community college dual credit programs make economic impact

By Staff | Jan 31, 2008

High-school students participating in dual enrollment programs through the community colleges of Iowa in a partnership with local community school districts saved the state the equivalent of $21.7 million in future state general aid assistance at other educational institutions and saved their families $30.7 million in future college-related expenses, according to a recent study by Strategic Economics Group.

That’s the report released Wednesday in Des Moines by two state experts.

“Our study determined that Iowa’s community college ‘early college opportunity’ program generated more than a five-fold return on the taxpayers’ investment,” according to former state economist Harvey Siegelman. The 2008 study was authored by Siegelman and Iowa State University economics professor Daniel Otto.

Dual enrollment programs benefit a number of areas reflected in the study, which underscores the importance of such programs at Iowa’s community colleges, including Iowa Lakes Community College.

“Iowa Lakes has long been a leader in Iowa in providing access to and supporting dual enrollments for high-school students,” said Dr. Harold Prior, president of Iowa Lakes. “This represents the single best way for our area high-school students to achieve a four-year college degree without accumulating a huge amount of debt.”

Prior also thanked the area schools for their leadership in this arena.

“K-12 school districts in the Iowa Lakes five-county area have been consistently very supportive of using dual enrollments for providing further opportunities for high-school students to prepare for successful entry into and completion of a college degree,” Prior said.

And high-school students taking advantage of these college opportunities tend to graduate from college ‘on time.’

“A growing body of research indicates that college students who take college credit in high school earn higher college GPAs and have higher two- and four-year graduation rates,” said Michael Morrison, president of North Iowa Area Community College.

His college recently gathered the data on those graduation rates, according to Prior.

“NIACC also issued another recent report regarding the success rates of high-school students who have taken dual enrollment courses and North Iowa is a real leader in this area of study,” Prior added.

Derrick Franck, president of the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees was pleased with the results of the Siegelman/Otto study.

“This study confirms our belief that Iowa’s community colleges are highly cost effective providers of higher education for Iowans. Money invested in Iowa’s community colleges pays big dividends not only in increased skills for Iowa’s workforce but also in helping more Iowa students attain two- and four-year degrees,” Franck said.

As a result of the savings due to the community college dual enrollment programs, the study also estimated the impact on Iowa’s economy translates to a consumer spending increase of $57.8 million, a personal income increase of $12.7 million, a state gross domestic product increase of $24.2 million, a state tax receipt increase of $2.2 million and an increase of 470 jobs, according to Siegelman and Otto.

Based on 2005 data, which was the most recent year for which consistent and complete data was available, 27,331 students participated in early college opportunity programs at Iowa’s community colleges. The students earned 142,140 credits in college-level courses, which is the equivalent to 4,738 full-time students.

For more information on dual enrollment programs at the Iowa Lakes Community College, call Kari Hampe at 712-852-5228.