Iowa’s College Enrollment Declining and Minority Students Are Struggling to Meet College Readiness Benchmarks, New Report Says


DES MOINES, Iowa — A Condition of Higher Education report recently released by Iowa College Aid stated that 43% of Iowans have an associate’s, bachelor’s or professional degree, which is higher than the national average. However, college enrollment in Iowa has dropped more than 7% between 2010 and 2018. 

According to the Iowa College Aid this drop in enrollment is due to the state of the economy. 

In the fall of 2011, there were more than 360,000 students enrolled at an Iowa educational institution. 

Jay Pennington of the Iowa Department of Education told Radio Iowa that this high point in enrollment in 2011 was after the great recession, as people left the workforce and decided to go back to school. 

However as jobs became more available during the recovery of the great recession between 2011-18, more people began to seek employment than higher education.

In this recent report, Iowa College Aid projected that another decline in Iowa’s college enrollment is forecast for after the year 2025, but since the pandemic has hit, the future of higher education is no longer foreseeable. 

“We’re clearly heading into a recession now, but this is not a recession like anyone we’ve ever seen, Public Information Officer at Iowa College Aid, Elizabeth Sedrel said. The recession along with a pandemic, with campus closures, transitioning to online, we just don’t know what it’s going to do.”

According to the research firm, Art & Science Group, so far 17% of current high school seniors who planned on attending a four-year college in the fall have changed their minds.

Iowa’s current high school graduation rate is 91% but according to this new Condition of Higher Education report, the state is struggling with minority students. 

Statistical Research Analyst at Iowa College Aid, Meghan Oyster stated that less than 85% of black, Hispanic, American Indian, and students with disabilities graduated from high school in 2016 and 2017.

The report considers college readiness benchmarks established by ACT.

In 2019, Iowa was tied for the highest average composite ACT scores in the nation. However, Iowa’s average ACT score fell by a half-point from 2015 to 2019, with black, Hispanic, and American Indian students scoring lower than their Asian and white peers. 

“Well about 50% of white and Asian students meet three or more college readiness benchmarks, less than 40% of black, Hispanic and American Indian students, meet the same threshold,” Oyster said. 

You can find the full report here.


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