The establishment of an Iowa comprehensive community college system was created in 1965 as the result of legislation called "The Area Vocational Schools Act." During that time, members of the Iowa Legislature recognized the need to create a "merged area" educational system as the result of a growing interest among a diverse group of students who represented adults, women, minorities, and lower and middle class families. It became evident during this period that a quality education was critical to the training of a skilled workforce, which would attract industry and keep young Iowans living in their rural communities.
Today, Iowa's community colleges are considered the "economic engines" of their rural communities. They are increasingly vital to the survival of rural Iowa, and they now attract a more diverse population of students than ever before. Last year, community colleges served nearly 21 percent of Iowa's total population; during the past 12 years, they enrolled 45 to 60 percent of all Iowa resident students. Iowa legislative leaders have come to understand that nearly 84 percent of community college students, upon program completion, stay in Iowa and remain part of the workforce in their communities trained for 21st century jobs.
The statewide community college system faces many challenges. Iowa's community college students pay the 8th highest tuition in the nation, state funding still remains below the 2008 levels, and Iowa continues to remain the only state in the nation that does not receive Adult Basic Education (ABE) funding.
During the 2012 General Election, Iowa Valley Community College District (IVCCD) spent time meeting 13 candidates running for the Iowa Legislature who live in the district. The District provided each candidate with student information based on funding, demographic, poverty, educational attainment, and "top jobs" data pulled from the 2010 U.S. Census data for Hardin, Marshall, Poweshiek and Tama Counties. The candidate meetings also provided an opportunity for Iowa Valley to educate its future leaders on the 2013 legislative priorities adopted by the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees (IACCT) and the President's group (IACCP).
Iowa Valley's grassroots process provided an opportunity for the IVCCD Board and its administrative leadership team to learn more about each candidate and discuss the District's challenges and success stories. It is important to note that when the Legislature convenes in January, there will be 8 legislators representing our college district who took time during their campaigns to gain a better understanding of Iowa Valley Community College District.
Cindy Schulte is director of governmental affairs for Iowa Valley Community College District