February Community College Leader Bulletin

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Community College Leader Bulletin - A publication from the Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation

Volume 13, Issue 7                                                                       February 2023                                            educateiowa.gov

Inside this issue

Jeremy Varner
Administrator, Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation

Dennis Harden
 Chief, Bureau of Career and Technical  Education

Amy Gieseke
Chief, Bureau of Community Colleges

Apply for Paraeducator Preparation Program grants

Paraeducators and students

To address the paraeducator and teacher shortage, the Iowa Department of Education will be awarding up to five competitive grants to approved paraeducator preparation programs. Programs must be approved by the state and willing to offer paraeducator courses within a determined timeline. Each institution can apply for a maximum of $29,000 to be used towards tuition and books. Allowable costs per student include tuition and books.

The intent of the grant is to address the teacher shortage and offer an opportunity to create a pathway into teaching for currently hired paraeducators. This will enable current paraeducators to take the coursework necessary to earn the paraeducator certification in high-need areas and will help with the recruitment and retention of effective educators in Iowa.

Deadline to apply is Friday, March 3. For information on how to apply, contact Kelly Faga, education program consultant at kelly.faga@iowa.gov or 515-205-4697.

Initial results from GEER II Gap Expansion show positive impact

Truck driving program

Since its implementation in June 2021, GEER II Gap Tuition Assistance expansion funding (GEER II Gap Expansion) has helped increase access to short-term training programs aligned to in-demand careers. A total of $2.9 million has been provided to Iowa’s community colleges for this pilot funding expansion, and as a result, over 2,030 students across the state were served between July 2021 and December 2022.

As a part of the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund, GEER II Gap Expansion helps reach students who would not otherwise have access to tuition and fee assistance due to income guidelines. These expansion funds are the first of its kind and can be used on short-term credit programs, which addresses the funding void that exists between non-credit programs and for-credit technical programs that are eligible for federal Pell grant opportunities and the Last Dollar Scholarship program.

All 15 Iowa community colleges are providing GEER II Gap Expansion programs to students, and many have added more options in both non-credit and short-term credit programs. Currently, 16 short-term credit programs -- such as nursing assistant, emergency medical technician, welding and more -- have used GEER II Gap Expansion. Additionally, 143 non-credit programs have used the funding, including commercial driver’s license, early childhood education, medication aide and others.

Notably, students completing Gap programs have seen an increase in wages of 8.1 percent. Over half (58.4 percent) who were previously unemployed found employment, and 11.4 percent continued their education/training into credit programs.

For students who entered into the workforce or continued their employment, the overall percentage of employment ranged from 81.6 percent to 100 percent in the first year following completion. 

For more information, contact Paula Nissen, administrative consultant at paula.nissen2@iowa.gov or 515-418-8273.

Open course materials provide cost savings, access

College student on computer

For Iowa college students seeking ways to cut down on costs, open educational resources may just be what they’re looking for. Initiatives to provide free, openly licensed text books and other course materials are picking up steam and making a difference on campuses across the state.

Open educational resources, known simply as OER, are finding their way into Iowa’s universities, private colleges and community colleges to provide affordable and equitable access to course materials for students. OER grants access through an open license that allows faculty to adapt and distribute the materials for their courses. Students are then able to freely access and use the materials, typically online, without cost. 

“The word ‘free’ gets people excited,” said Abbey Elder, open access and scholarly communication librarian at Iowa State University. “Affording education in Iowa and around the U.S. can be daunting for students and their families, and any additional expense can be surprising. Open educational resources provide one less barrier to get them through their college careers.” 

Providing OER materials benefits all college students but may be especially impactful to first-generation students, students of lower socio-economic status and others who may be unaware of the costs outside of tuition.

Non-credit and short-term students find success through tuition assistance funding

Certified nursing assistants and patient

Ten months ago when 20-year-old Cory Hennick joined the utility team at the City of Huxley, he already knew he would need to get a Class B commercial driver’s license (CDL). He just didn’t know how he was going to pay for it. Enter the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund – better known as GEER II Gap Expansion – a limited funding source that is providing tuition and fee assistance to Iowa’s adult students in short-term and non-credit courses.

For adult students like Hennick, GEER II Gap Expansion can provide tuition assistance to students who have traditionally been ineligible to receive other funding due to income restrictions. For the first time, these students can qualify for assistance with non-credit certificate courses in high-demand job fields. Additionally, adults who enroll in short-term courses under 16 credits can also receive assistance through GEER II funds.

“GEER II Gap Expansion is truly innovative,” said Paula Nissen, administrative consultant for the Iowa Department of Education. “Iowa is one of the first states in the nation to provide this type of funding for non-credit and short-term credit courses. This funding helps a large pocket of adult students who aren’t eligible for other assistance.”

Hennick received GEER II Gap Expansion funding at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) while pursuing the Class B CDL certification. He paid no tuition costs for the online theory course and 12-hour driving instruction class and saved $1,640 in out-of-pocket costs.

State Capitol event promotes student skill development

CTSO students

Over 200 Iowa students and educators made their way to Des Moines to meet up with legislators and state officials for a fast-paced day highlighting career and technical education (CTE).

Sponsored by the Iowa Association of Career and Technical Education, CTE Day at the Capitol is an annual event held during February’s CTE Month celebration and is an opportunity to promote the importance of CTE programming for education in Iowa. Students involved with CTE programs such as agriculture, business, family and consumer science, health science and industrial technology joined in this year’s event to highlight their individual CTE program and its benefits.

View highlights from CTE Day at the Capitol on Flickr

“It’s great to see so many students from across the state travel to the State Capitol for CTE Day,” said Cale Hutchings, CTE consultant for the Iowa Department of Education. “The event provides the opportunity to show everyone how strong CTE programming is in Iowa.”

Save the date for 2023 Guided Pathways Data and Equity Convening

Guided pathways arrow

Mark your calendars for the 2nd Annual Guided Pathways Data and Equity Convening, which will be held on Monday, May 22 at the Iowa Valley Community College District’s Conference and Event Center in Marshalltown. This convening is made possible with a collaboration among the Iowa Department of Education, Community Colleges for Iowa and the Alliance to Foster Equity and Inclusion.

The tentative topics for the convening will be athletes, scholarships and using disaggregated class data. Each topic will be presented and discussed using data with an equity lens. Additional details and an opportunity to register for the convening will be made available later in the spring semester.

For more information, contact Kelly Friesleben, education program consultant at kelly.friesleben@iowa.gov or 515-868-2847.

Kudos to Iowa's community colleges and Department staff!


Congratulations to Iowa's community colleges and Vladimir Bassis and Paula Nissen, administrative consultants in the Bureau of Community Colleges! Due to the efforts of the Iowa Community College MIS staff, Bassis and Nissen have been recognized as leaders in non-credit data collection and outcomes research by Rutgers University. The two will serve as mentors to other states who are interested in Iowa's groundbreaking work.