September Community College Leader Bulletin

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Community College Leader Bulletin

 Volume 10, Issue 3                                                                      September 2020

Inside this issue


Jeremy Varner
Administrator, Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation


Dennis Harden
 Chief, Bureau of Career and Technical  Education


Paula Nissen
Acting Chief, Bureau of Community Colleges


Alison Jepsen
Executive Officer, Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation










Institutes of higher education may apply for connectivity grants


Applications are now available to higher education institutions that are seeking to tap into a portion of the $6.9 million Governor's Emergency Education Relief fund to improve connectivity for students and professional development for faculty online instruction.

The competitive grants are categorized into three components:

  1. $4.4 million will go to institutions that are working on access and connectivity for students, which could include purchasing devices or hotspots, or access to the internet.
  2. $1.5 million will be dedicated for professional development for faculty, preferably toward programs that are systemic in nature.
  3. $1 million will go to community colleges with funds directed at providing equipment and connectivity to adult education.

Deadline for applications for component 1 is September 30, and the deadline for applications for Component 3 is October 2. The application process for component 2 will be available early in October.

Institutions that are eligible to apply are regionally accredited, undergraduate public and private not-for-profit colleges and universities eligible for title IV funding and domiciled in Iowa.

Institutions that receive funding under the first and/or third component must use the funds to provide support to the students with the most significant barriers to accessing online and remote learning opportunities. The institutions will use locally developed criteria to determine the students in greatest need of support.

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U.S. Department of Labor selects Iowa Department of Education to facilitate state’s first industry-recognized apprenticeship program


The Iowa Department of Education has received U.S. Department of Labor recognition to oversee the development of a new career pathway program designed to help more Iowans gain the skills and knowledge needed for in-demand jobs. These new Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs, or IRAPs, will provide a flexible and customizable option that can be tailored to the workforce needs of businesses and expand opportunities for more Iowans to launch rewarding careers. IRAPs add to a robust menu of work-based learning programs available to Iowa employers.

“Iowa is a leader in using apprenticeship programs to expand economic opportunities for Iowans,” said Gov. Reynolds. “This announcement creates additional work-based learning opportunities for industries by providing a more flexible apprenticeship model tailored to employers’ needs. I am grateful to President Trump and Labor Secretary Scalia for their strong support of innovative policies that grow jobs, wages and help Iowans find rewarding and sustainable careers.” 

Information technology will be the first industry of focus for IRAP development, but IRAPs eventually will be expanded to other industries and occupations. The Department of Education, in partnership with Iowa Workforce Development, Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa’s community colleges will meet with industry leaders in the information technology field next month to develop standards and related performance requirements for occupations including those in software development, database administration and cybersecurity, among others.

“Helping more Iowans gain experience and earn market-driven credentials is key to getting the rewarding jobs they deserve and employers need filled to grow,” said Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education. “I am proud that the Iowa Department of Education is able to help move this initiative forward.”

“IRAP will provide Iowa employers with another option for growing and expanding a skilled workforce,” said Mike Ralston, president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry. “We are excited to work with businesses across the state to expand new opportunities in industries where apprenticeships have been underutilized.”

The Iowa Department of Education is one of only 18 organizations across the country to be recognized as a Standards Recognition Entity (SRE). The SREs are third-party industry and workforce leaders that will evaluate, recognize and monitor IRAPs that provide apprentices with industry-recognized credentials. Additional information, guidance documentation and training sessions are currently being developed and will be made available soon. Contact to learn more about this exciting new opportunity.

Social Justice and Equity series kicked off Sept. 23

Equity Series Logo
Wilson photo

The inaugural webinar for the Iowa Department of Education’s Social Justice and Equity in Education series kicked off on Sept. 23.

The session, which was opened by the Department’s Director Ann Lebo, featured A’ndrea Wilson, a professor at Grand View University, who delivered  “It’s Okay to be Uncomfortable: Moving Toward Racial Equity in Education in Iowa.” The session recording is available on the Department’s Equity Education website.

The series will include two sessions each month, culminating in a conference in March.  Look for future links on both social media and in the Community College Leader Bulletin.

Licensure renewal credit is available for those who want it. To register, individuals will need to log into the AEA Learning Online website using their current user name and password. If a new account is created, the course will not be accessible until the following business day.

The purpose of the first webinar is to provide information to educators on the impact of racism on students of color, and how participants can unintentionally contribute to the problem and actively contribute to the solution. Attendees will be given concepts, resources and tools to aid them as they explore their own behaviors and commit to the process of creating more racially inclusive educational environments.

For planning purposes, participants should also put down on their calendars two other already scheduled webinars:

  • Oct. 8, 3 to 4:30 p.m., featuring the Department’s Attorney Thomas Mayes, who will present “COVID-19: Class Disparities.” Register online now for this webinar. 
  • Oct. 22, 3 to 4 p.m., featuring the Department’s Janet Boyd, Pam Spangler and Jeanette Thomas, who will present “Equity Coordinators Refresher and Updates.”  The registration link will become available after the Oct. 8 webinar.

The Department also continues to seek guest presenters for webinars. Learn more about the series and how to put in a proposal to be a guest speaker.

Department announces new partnership for business and finance

Business Pathway

The Iowa Department of Education, in support of the Future Ready Iowa Initiative, is proud to announce a new partnership with the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI), Iowa Business Council (IBC), Iowa Business Education Association (IBEA), Iowa Bankers Association (IBA) and the Iowa chapter of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) to develop promotional materials to highlight a wide range of exciting and fulfilling business and financial services careers in Iowa.

A brief employer survey was conducted in September and a series of virtual employer roundtable events are being planned throughout October to gather direct input from the many different industries and employers with a growing need for workers with advanced education, training and experience in business and financial services in Iowa. A closing employer survey is planned for November to gather important wage, education and employment details before a final product releases in December. 

Similar statewide projects have been completed for industries like Health Science, Transportation, Distribution, & Logistics (TDL) and most recently, Information Technology. Visit our Sector Partnership website, or contact to learn more, review materials, register for an event and to be part of this important project. 

State Board of Education notices rule changes


The State Board of Education noticed rule changes to two sets of Iowa  Administrative Code (Chapter 22, Chapter 24) at the September 17 meeting. 

Administrative Code Chapter 22 is modified to implement Division V of House File (HF) 2629, the Future Ready Iowa bill, by removing the full-time enrollment restriction for the concurrent enrollment and Postsecondary Enrollment Options programs. In addition, the rules adjust to the proposal and funding mechanisms for the summer college credit program. Additional guidance will be issued in the near future.  

Administrative Code Chapter 24 is modified to conform with HF 2454, which provides an additional option by which a community college may qualify postsecondary career and technical education faculty, using a combination of education and work experience. 

Please contact Jeremy Varner, Administrator, Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation, at, or at 515-281-8260, with any questions.

VFA benchmark data now available


New benchmark data is now available for the state’s community colleges through the Voluntary Framework for Accountability (VFA) system. The Department partnered with the Iowa Association of Community College Presidents several years ago to develop appropriate success measures and implement an accountability framework that would work for all 15 of Iowa’s community colleges. They ultimately selected VFA, a system designed by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

The VFA is the first-ever national accountability system to measure how two-year colleges perform in serving their more than 13 million students nationwide. The metrics included in the VFA were developed through 18 months of intensive research and testing by community college presidents, institutional researchers and trustees/governing boards. Currently, 211 community colleges across the nation participate in the VFA, with more anticipated to come on board in the future.

The majority of this work started in 2014, with an analysis of metrics and data collection alignment. The metrics include student persistence and retention measures, as well as early momentum key performance measures. By 2017, a comprehensive set of metrics provided a new look into developmental education and its impact on retention and success, while the inclusion of noncredit programs in the career and technical education (CTE) cohort provided a first look at educational and employment outcomes for these experiences. Prior to the VFA system, neither of these metrics was available for national benchmarking purposes.  

A steering committee, which consists of various community college administrator levels, meets annually to review the VFA process and the 2-year and 6-year student cohort data benchmark summaries, which are available to each college through the VFA website, here

2020 is the third year where data from all 15 Iowa community colleges has been available to describe a six-year cohort of students, starting with the fall 2013 cohort. With six years of data available for credit, noncredit and adult basic education programs, Iowa’s community colleges can make more informed decisions to better serve students and improve programs at the local level.  The full six-year picture allows enough time for most student outcomes to be documented, as some students will transfer before completing a credential and others will take longer to earn a credential. Before now, there was no way to measure this information. A more comprehensive look at community college programs can be reviewed in order to make informed decisions to improve student outcomes.

Preliminary data shows that Iowa’s 15 community colleges in the aggregate are performing well when compared to the benchmarks of all other VFA-reporting colleges.  For example, the main two-year cohort of students starting in fall 2017 showed a higher rate of reaching credit thresholds (42 credits for full-time students and 24 credits for part-time students) by 51.4% vs. 41.1% for the non-Iowa colleges. For the main six-year cohort of students starting in fall 2013, 60.6% of the students at Iowa's colleges transferred or completed a degree or were still enrolled as compared to 53.8% of the other VFA colleges. The colleges will use their own data to benchmark areas of strengths and areas where additional strategies may help their own students' success. 

More information about the VFA initiative and timeline is available on the Department's website.

RFP process initiated for program approval workflow vendor


The Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation (Division) has initiated a Request for Proposal (RFP) process to find a vendor to manage the state's career and technical education (CTE) program approval workflow.

This system will house the state workflows for both community colleges and secondary institutions as well as managing the state common course numbering system.

Currently, the state of Iowa and the 15 community colleges utilize currIQunet's software, META, for such purposes; that contract ends in January 2021.  A CurricUNET software version has been in place in Iowa to house all of the community colleges' programs, courses, data reports and historical changes since 2012.

Per state requirements, the Division issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) on August 14th to select the next curricular system, and a vendor should be selected by the end of October.  A team that includes community college representation will select the company through a formal review.  In contrast to previous RFPs for this system, the chosen vendor will not need to meet the needs of 15 different community college curriculum documentation and approval processes; only the state requirements for data and approval will be utilized in the new system.  Once the system is created, the background code for the new system will belong to the state. 

After the vendor has been chosen, the next steps include working to finalize the vendor contract, then the vendor will meet with the key users of the system at the Department to build the database to meet state postsecondary and secondary requirements.  

Please contact Chris Russell, Education Program Consultant, at 515-725-2247, or at, with any questions or comments.

Ascendium grant supports strengthening correctional education through partnerships

ascendium grant

The Iowa Department of Education - Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation (Department) was awarded a grant in January 2020 from Ascendium Education Group entitled, Optimizing Delivery Systems for Higher Education in Prison. This initiative paired the Department with the Iowa Board of Regents, Iowa Department of Corrections, Des Moines Area Community College, Iowa Central Community College and the University of Iowa in the one-year planning grant. A key deliverable of the grant includes developing an advisory board for correctional education providers with strong connections between correctional facilities and credentialing aligned to labor market demands. 

Work has included large group meetings, held virtually since March, that have included forums of current and former incarcerated students sharing their experiences in accessing educational services and presentations with state leaders from Tennessee, New Jersey and California sharing their recent experiences in expanding educational offerings from basic education to vocational certificates to associate, bachelor and master's degrees. Future small group meetings will continue to focus on key areas of serving individuals in the nine Iowa correctional facilities on the broad topic areas of funding, technology, student services and partnerships  

The work of the groups will be used to detail an implementation plan and grant submission to Ascendium by the end of the year for an additional award. These funds will be used to continue the work of delivering quality educational programming that increases access to opportunities for acquiring the skills required to succeed in workplaces and communities for returning citizens. For further information on the grant please contact Alex Harris,

Annual report of developmental education in Iowa community colleges released


The Iowa Department of Education (Department) recently released its 2020 annual report on developmental education for Iowa community colleges. The report includes enrollment data from academic year (AY)18-19, but also tracks cohorts of students since 2013.

The report also includes trend data on factors such as headcount enrollment, credit hours taken, student demographics, and student outcomes in transfer, graduation and course success.

The number of credit hours in developmental education taken at the colleges has decreased from a total of 121,824 credits in AY11-12 to 49,480 credits in AY18-19. This decrease is attributed to several strategies colleges have implemented within developmental education course scheduling and course delivery methods.

Some additional highlights from the 2020 annual report include the following:

  • Developmental education courses accounted for 2.9 percent of total community college credit hours during AY18-19.
  • The most popular developmental education course taken during AY18-19 in mathematics was elementary algebra. For writing courses, the most popular course was college prep writing II.
  • Students who take one or more developmental education courses are more likely to be female, low-income, racial or ethnic minorities, self-identify as English as a Second Language (ESL) learners, be enrolled full time and are younger, on average, than students who do not take developmental education courses.
  • The success rate (graduation and/or transfer) for students from the 2016-17 cohort who took one or more developmental education courses was 31.5 percent, compared to 53.0 percent for students who did not take developmental education courses.

Please contact Kelly Friesleben, Education Program Consultant, Bureau of Community Colleges, at, or at 515-868-2847, with comments or questions.

Alex Harris elected chair-elect of NASDAE


Alex Harris has been elected by his peers to serve as Chair-elect on the National Association of State Directors for Adult Education's Board of Directors for the program year 2020-2021. He will serve one year in that capacity, followed by two years as Chair and then a year as Immediate Past Chair. 

The National Association of State Directors for Adult Education (NASDAE) was incorporated in 1990, and is organized by state directors of adult education with the mission:

  • To coordinate, develop, and conduct programs of professional development for state adult          education leadership
  • To serve as a catalyst for public policy review and development related to adult education
  • To disseminate information on the field of adult education

Alex had been serving as the vice-chair on the Board's Adult Education System Support Committee and was previously the Chair for the Policy and Strategic Partnership Committee. 

Vladimir Bassis presents in NCSES workshop on alternative data sources


The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES)—a part of the National Science Foundation (NSF)—convened an interactive, three-part summer workshop on the skilled technical workforce (STW). These workshops culminated the NCSES STW working group's year-long effort on the NCSES STW Initiative. This initiative serves as a framework to understand and measure the STW—workers who use significant levels of science and engineering expertise and technical knowledge in their occupations and whose educational attainment is less than a bachelor's degree.  

In preparation for these workshops, NCSES interviewed the Division of Community College and Workforce Development’s (Division) data team.  This interview resulted in an invitation to present in one of the planned workshops regarding the Division’s experience in utilizing administrative data and their ability to connect it to a variety of external sources on a unit-level basis.  Vladimir Bassis, Education Program Consultant within the Division’s data team, was one of three presenters in the second workshop titled, Administrative and Other Supplemental Data Sources for the STW, which was presented on August 21, 2020. 

In addition to staff from NSF and NCSES, other presenters for the workshops included leaders in educational research from the following institutions: University of the District of Columbia, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and The National Training, Education, and Workforce Survey. The Iowa Department of Education was the only local government presenter.   NCSES stated the following in order to address the importance of these workshops and the overall initiative: “Although these workshops will address a distinct STW topic, taken as whole, these workshops build upon each other to inform the data and research needs of the STEM workforce community through NCSES's efforts to measure and understand the STW.”    

Division welcomes new career academies education program consultant

Rathje Crop

The Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation are pleased to announce Jenn Rathje will join the CTE team on October 1st as the education program consultant for Career Academies.

Jenn comes to us from Des Moines Area Community College where she was the Career Advantage Program Specialist.  She has a Master's degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University. 

Within the division, Jennifer will will be responsible for leading our concurrent enrollment programs and initiatives and will oversee all aspects of Career Academies, including the Career Academies Incentive Fund.  She will also work with Senior Year Plus program. 

Division welcomes education program consultant for career and technical student organizations

Dzurick crop

The Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation are pleased to announce Chris Dzurick will be joining the CTE team on October 9th as our Education Program Consultant for Career and Technical Service Organizations (CTSO).

Chris comes to us from Missouri where he currently serves as the FBLA/PBL state adviser and Business Education supervisor at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. He has also worked as the Youth Ambassador Coordinator for ACT Missouri where he developed leadership and programs for substance abuse prevention programs. He received his Master’s in Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Missouri – St. Louis in 2017.  

Career opportunities within the Division

join our team

We are seeking talented individuals who are passionate about excellence in education to fill several positions over the next few months within the Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation.

We don't just talk about inclusion; it's how we do business. Our team is globally diverse and we seek candidates whose differences will challenge our ideas, spur innovation and ultimately help build stronger programs serving the people of Iowa.

The division is currently seeking applicants to fill an education program consultant who will provide leadership for high school and community college business, marketing and information solutions programs and a community college bureau chief who will provide leadership to the bureau of community colleges.

The division is in the process of reviewing and interviewing applicants for the community college finance consultant and community college communications consultant. Decisions on these positions will be made in the coming weeks.

To learn more about opportunities within the division, please contact Jeremy Varner, Administrator, Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation, at, or at 515-281-8260.