Private and Community Colleges Prepare as Competition Heats Up

Jan 27, 2015

The new emphasis on funding Iowa’s three state universities according to the number of students who are state residents is dramatically increasing competition.  The 26 private and 15 community colleges in the state are preparing.

UPDATED 2:02 PM: University of Iowa in-state base tuition is $6,678. This was incorrectly stated as being $13,000. The corrected post continues below.

In Mount Vernon, Cornell President, Jonathan Brand says, “about seventeen percent of our students now are from Iowa, and that number has to grow.” Cornell’s current student body enrollment is just under twelve-hundred students.

Brand says, “strategically, we think it is vital” to increase the percentage of Iowa residents in the student body. He adds, “I so firmly believe, without giving up our national or international focus, when you have a healthy number of students from your home state, it anchors the student body, the culture, the population in the healthiest of ways.”

Brand says that is why Cornell is now offering what is called the “Promise Grant which is $20,000 per year for four years for those Iowa students who are admitted to Cornell." That reduces Cornell’s annual tuition to $18,000 for Iowa residents compared to $6,678 listed as the University of Iowa’s base tuition.

Brand considers it a good deal for Cornell in persuading Iowans to choose the Mount Vernon campus. “I don’t want to stereotype,” says Brand, “but they’re good, hardworking, solid students.”

“It doesn’t mean,” he adds, “that we want fewer students from elsewhere," stressing that Cornell’s goal is to add 400 students within the next seven years. “At that point,” Brand predicts, "we’ll take a breather and make sure that the academic experience is of the same caliber and quality that it is today.” He acknowledges “fighting headwinds” in the Midwest’s slow-growing population demographics.

M.J. Dolan, Executive Director of the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees, says those regional colleges, “welcome all young people coming into this state.” She says the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association asked for a community college-based training program for Latino workers in their business, and a German company asked for wind-power worker training.

Dolan concedes that community college enrollment is plateauing, but says that’s because of Iowa’s relatively low unemployment rate. But, with a cautionary tone concerning increased competition for Iowa high school students, Dolan says that doesn’t mean the community colleges aren’t concerned about the “unintended consequences of a policy that takes our Iowa students and wants to put them into many institutions when there aren’t enough to go around.”  It’s a clear reference to the Iowa Board of Regents’ new performance policy that rewards the state universities for enrolling Iowa residents.