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Iowa’s Community College Education and Employment Outcomes Research: Calculating Impact

The EvoLLLution | Iowa's Community College Education and Employment Outcomes Research: Calculating Impact
By collecting and analyzing outcomes data, state governments and community colleges can gain a clearer picture of their impact on the region and potential for growth.

Iowa’s Community College Program Outcomes is an organization that studies employment outcomes gained through community college training for both credit and non-credit programming. The Iowa Department of Education’s Community College and Workforce Preparation Division—through a partnership with Iowa Workforce Development—analyzes the data to answer questions about student success in education, employment rates, earning levels and industries of employment.

The subsequent reports document the educational and employment outcomes of community college students enrolled in credit and non-credit programs, as well as students who left Iowa community colleges without completing a program. They include the number of awards, time-to-degree, retention, migration (both in- and out-of-state), continuation in the two-year college or transfer to four-year institutions, employment timing, wages, career clusters, career pathways, and earned credit hours, both on state-wide, specific college, and specific program of completion levels. We also track graduates longitudinally, which allows the analysis of trends in education and career pathways of Iowa community college credit and non-credit program completers and program leavers. Additionally, the Comparative Analysis of Completers and Leavers report illustrates the impact on students if they complete their programs or leave the community college prior to completion.

The most recent annual reports, which were presented at the National Council for Workforce Education Conference in San Antonio in October 2019, showed that the majority of students who earned awards from Iowa community colleges—particularly in career and technical programs—remained in Iowa after program completion.

They also had higher rates of employment and higher earnings than students who directly entered the workforce without completing an award, according to an analysis of education, employment and wage patterns of Iowa community college graduates.

The 2019 Iowa Community Colleges Employment Outcomes Report: Noncredit Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programsreport for academic year 2017, shows that noncredit programs are helping Iowans gain the skills to help them to secure employment within the state. A total of 83.6% of Iowa community college non-credit CTE program graduates remained in Iowa after completing their programs. More than two-thirds of all community college noncredit CTE students — in health science, transportation, distribution or logistics programs – had 13.2% higher median quarterly wages in the first year after graduation, compared to the previous year’s graduates. The programs provide a pathway for adults to upskill, as demonstrated by 60% of students enrolled in non-credit programs being over the age of 25.

The 2019 Iowa Community Colleges Education Outcomes Report: Certificate, Diploma, and Associate Degree Programs report for academic year 2017, also shows that the majority of Iowa community college graduates, 83.3 percent, remained in Iowa after completing their credit programs. In contrast to students enrolled in non-credit programs, fewer than one-third of all graduates of community college credit programs were over the age of 25.

General Studies/liberal arts, health science professions, business management and marketing, and mechanics and repairers accounted for the majority of awards earned at Iowa’s community colleges through the credit programs. Students who received an associate of applied science degree in registered nursing, dental hygiene, diesel mechanics technology, lineworker and commercial vehicle operation had the highest wages in the year following their award.

The 2019 Iowa Community College Completers and Leavers: A Comparative Analysis shows the importance of completing some level of postsecondary education as it relates to the labor market. The study found that leavers with a significant number of earned credit hours had the advantage of higher wages in the first year out of school while completers finished their degrees. However, the wages of completers overtook those of leavers within two years of graduation. Leavers showed a similar gender distribution to completers but were slightly younger, more racially diverse, less economically disadvantaged, and had similar percentages of students with prior degrees.

The granular analysis of employment and wages data, descending on program of study levels, is used to enhance new program planning, existing program modifications and overall program improvement.

More importantly, this information can help establish and maintain an appropriate, healthy balance between industry needs and program enrollment and completion. This supply and demand balance between qualified workforce and existing jobs is a key to workforce development.

Upcoming reports will not only update the current studies, but will also concentrate on the impact community college students have on local, regional and state employment demand.

For a more interactive experience visit the Interactive Dashboard which contains data visualization and allows for customized data selection for multiple years and downloads.

For more information about the research, please click here.

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