Rural Iowa

iowa wesleyan university
Kate Payne / IPR

Iowa Wesleyan University leaders say more than a dozen organizations are interested in partnering with the small, historic, private school in Mount Pleasant. Administrators are trying to build a new future, after the school nearly shut down late last year for lack of funds.

Katie Peikes/IPR

A mental health center that had an uncertain future nearly a year ago, will soon be shared by counties across the western part of the state. The move comes as Woodbury County changes the way it will provide mental health services next budget year.

Kate Payne

One of rural Iowa’s most unique restaurants is losing its chef, leaving the future of the Ladora Bank Bistro somewhat uncertain. The struggle to find a new owner for the restaurant shows how difficult it can be to keep historic buildings open in small town Iowa. 

Rural hospitals aren’t just providers of medicine and health care, but also are often major employers and a massive part of a town’s tax base. However, mounting challenges are forcing these hospitals to merge and close in droves.

Courtesy of Sarah Haptonstall

A western Iowa city that has been dealing with brown tap water for almost a year says it has finally found a fix.

Courtesy of Lorena Lopez, La Prensa

An investigation into three Denison city employees has come to a close. The workers were placed on paid leave in December.

Jim Gilliam was hired by the BrownWinick law firm in Des Moines to conduct the investigation. He informed the city council last week that he found no evidence of criminal conduct or personal profit among Fire Chief Cory Snowgren, City Clerk Lisa Koch and City Manager Terry Crawford, who were all placed on leave from Dec. 18 until Jan. 9.

Michael Leland/IPR file

A team of Iowa researchers has concluded that there's no actionable evidence that the sound of wind turbines is a danger to public. Instead, the report authors found that reported symptoms of hearing loss or poor sleep are more likely related to people’s attitudes and beliefs about wind development.

Courtesy of Jason Neises


The challenges facing small Iowa towns seem to multiply with each passing year. These challenges are not unique to Iowa and the Orton Family Foundation, a small and rural community-focused non-profit based out of Vermont, has developed an approach aimed at improving community success and wellbeing from the inside out.


Katie Peikes/IPR

The western Iowa city of Denison is known as the hometown of actress Donna Reed. And residents have embraced that.

Every year just before the holidays, a theater bearing Reed’s name makes it a tradition to show the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life."


This year, they hosted a screening with Spanish subtitles — a nod to the town’s large Hispanic population.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

The value of farmland in Iowa has dropped slightly this year, according to the Iowa State University Land Values Survey.

Wendong Zhang, an economics professor at ISU, collects information from realtors, lenders, appraisers and other people who monitor farm sales and transitions. He says the 0.8 percent decrease in farmland value compared to last year is partly still a correction from the record-high values of 2013. This is the fourth time in the past five years that land values have decreased.

Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers

An Iowa liberal arts college is challenging a vote by student workers to expand their union. The appeal puts Grinnell College and its student dining workers’ union in the thick of a national labor law debate.

Penn State via flickr creative commons /

The first class of physicians’ assistants from the University of Dubuque graduated Friday. The new program is coming online as Iowa is facing a potential shortage of PAs. 

iowa wesleyan university
Kate Payne / IPR

Iowa Wesleyan University will stay open for another school year. Administrators say donations from alumni, community donors and a collaboration with the USDA's Rural Development Office will be enough to keep the university afloat, at least through the 2019-2020 school year. But school leaders are warning that institutional change is necessary for longterm fiscal sustainability.

Kate Payne / IPR

A professor and alumna of Iowa Wesleyan University is donating half a million dollars to help keep the school open. The potentially transformational gift comes a little over a week after school leaders announced they're considering closing the school due to "significant financial challenges."

John Pemble / IPR file

Iowa Wesleyan University may be closing its doors after 176 years due to "significant financial challenges". Without an immediate infusion of cash, this may be the small liberal arts college's last semester, leaving students, faculty and staff wondering: What’s next?