Minority Students break record for community college enrollment

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Fátima Hernández and Ramón Ortiz graduated from Marshalltown Community College in 2019. Currently, nearly 20% of MCC's student population identifies as Hispanic / Latino.
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By Kassidy Arena, Iowa Public Radio News

The overall enrollment rate for community colleges in Iowa decreased in 2020, but students from a racial/ethnic minority backgrounds hit a record-high for enrollment.

Overall for-credit enrollment in Iowa’s community colleges decreased over the past year, but enrollment among minority students is at a record high.

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Iowa’s annual condition of its community colleges was released by the Department of Education. It revealed in 2020, a record number of minority students enrolled to receive their associate’s degree or another form of certification.

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Eight-point-nine percent of total students identified as Hispanic or Latino. Black students follow closely behind , making up 7.7 percent of the total student body at the state’s 15 community colleges. The total makeup of minority enrollment hit the record-high at 23.7 percent. To put that in perspective, in 2007, just over 10 percent of students at Iowa’s community colleges identified as a racial or ethnic minority.

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“Although the percentage of racial/ethnic minority students is relatively low at Iowa community colleges, the colleges enrolled a higher percentage of minority students than other states when compared to the ethnicity of each state’s population,” the report clarified.

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This increase comes right during the pandemic. That may have played a role in the lower overall enrollment for 2020, which decreased by 1.3 percent.

The survey report also found the number of degrees and certificates earned by racial or ethnic minority students has grown almost every year since 2000. Forty-one-point-six percent of awards received by racial/ethnic students self-identified as Hispanic or Latino, making that ethnic group the largest percentage of degree/certificate earners at 41.6 percent.

The report does not specifically outline what caused the increase in minority enrollment. Although in year 2019-2020, the state’s community colleges distributed more than $260 million in student aid, that is significantly less than the aid awarded in past years.

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