May 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 10                                                                       May 2023                                  

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

Iowa Legislature 2023 session wrap-up

Iowa capitol building

The Legislature adjourned the 2023 session of the 90th General Assembly on May 4. All legislation that passed and has been signed by Governor Reynolds or is awaiting signature can be found on the Legislative Services Agency website

The Iowa Department of Education will be developing a comprehensive report summarizing legislation relevant to the Department and education stakeholders, which will be released once enrolled bills are signed into law. This report will also indicate whether rules and/or guidance stemming from the legislation will be forthcoming.

Legislation impacting community colleges includes Senate File 560, which is the education appropriations bill and includes funding for community college state general aid and funding through the Skilled Worker and Job Creation fund. The bill also includes changes to eligibility criteria for the Gap Tuition Assistance Program. 

Senate File 391 provides school districts to use concurrent enrollment courses to meet offer and teach requirements and allows for sequential units of one subject area to be taught in the same classroom at the same time in grades nine through twelve.

For more information, contact Lora Vargason, administrative consultant at or 515-729-0859.

What's new with Guided Pathways?

Two male and two female college-aged students with books

Can you believe it? It’s already been four years since the start of the Guided Pathways initiative in Iowa. We’ve come a long way since then, with community colleges leading the charge to implement important process and cultural changes that provide clearer paths to persistence and success for students. So, let’s check in. Let’s celebrate the work. Let’s see what’s new with Guided Pathways in Iowa.

Guided Pathways have changed the way Iowa’s 15 community colleges support their students and streamline their experiences towards program completion. It requires a proactive approach to keep students engaged and on track for their academic goals. Through this process, students meet regularly with an adviser to choose and understand the direction, credits and courses needed to complete a certificate program, degree or transfer to another higher education institution. A clearer understanding provided through Guided Pathways can help students save time and tuition and encourage retention.

“I’m proud of the work that Iowa’s community colleges have done to implement Guided Pathways,” said Kelly Friesleben, education consultant for the Iowa Department of Education. “Guided Pathways can make a difference with many important factors like student enrollment and retention, individual persistence, alignment of non-credit to credit programs, course marketing and more. It’s important work for the success of not only the students but also the colleges themselves.”

Annual community college budget report is now available

Certified Budget Report cover

The Iowa State Board of Education approved the Iowa Community Colleges Certified Budget Report for fiscal year 2024. The board is required to review and approve the budget of each community college on or prior to June 1 of each year. The budget provided by each college is an estimate prior to when state general aid appropriations, tuition revenues and employee salaries are finalized for the next fiscal year. 

Each community college budget included in the report has been approved by the local board and has been filed with the college’s controlling county auditor. The budget provided is used in determining tax levies.

For more information, contact Lora Vargason, administrative consultant at or 515-729-0859.

Committee for Senior Year Plus moves forward with audit plan


The Senior Year Plus Postsecondary Course Audit Committee convened on April 17 to discuss the role of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) and review the accreditation status for each of Iowa’s 15 community colleges with NACEP. The committee also unanimously voted to approve the 2023-2024 audit plan, which requires all community colleges to continue to demonstrate that state standards are met through NACEP accreditation.

As mandated by Iowa Code section 256.17, the Postsecondary Course Audit Committee is charged with annually auditing postsecondary courses offered to high school students in accordance with Iowa code chapter 261E (Senior Year Plus). Audit plans entail a thorough review of the quality of concurrent enrollment offerings while limiting duplication with existing accountability mechanisms. The audit process is coupled with NACEP accreditation and aligned with the community college state accreditation process. The scope of the audit is currently limited to concurrent enrollment courses but may be broadened in future years to include other Senior Year Plus offerings, including Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) and Advanced Placement (AP®) courses. Standards for this review are established by the committee and approved by the Iowa Department of Education.

For more information, contact Jen Rathje, education program consultant at or 515-326-5389.

Five Iowa community colleges meet to share data best practices

Group of people standing outside

Administrative consultant Paula Nissen led a data analysis and reporting workshop at Northwest Iowa Community College on May 17. Participants from five Iowa community colleges shared best practices and brainstormed on different ways to use data for marketing college departments to stakeholders.

Representatives from Northwest Community College, North Iowa Area Community College, Iowa Central Community College, Iowa Lakes Community College and Iowa Valley Community College attended the workshop.

The data workshops are anticipated to continue regularly. The next meeting will be held at Iowa Valley’s Ellsworth Community College on July 19.

For more information on the data workshops, contact Paula Nissen at or 515-418-8273. 


Mental health and well-being services to assist your campus

HEP Services logo

The Higher Education Program (HEP) was created at the University of Iowa to focus on staff and faculty mental health and well-being. While initially focused only at University of Iowa, the work of HEP has now extended to the Iowa community colleges. HEP is a part of the University's Scanlan Center for Mental Health, and its guiding vision is “Caring for Self While Caring for Others.” 

While staff and faculty are busy enough managing our own lives in turbulent times, we are also called on more so than ever to also help manage the stress and distress of students, colleagues and supervisees. And while stress and distress often occupy our attention, it remains equally vital to keep sight of where we also continue to flourish and thrive.

HEP provides a number of services to assist your campus, including: 

Professional Development Workshops - Whether focused on others such as the “Working with Students in Distress” workshop or focused on self, such as the “Caring for Self While Caring for Others: You’re Hardy and You Know It workshop, we have many workshops to fit your campus needs. Workshops can be on your campus, in-person or can be virtual. Visit the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health website to schedule a workshop.  

State of Iowa Higher Education Mental Health Collaborative - A collective effort started last year to bring together partners focused on staff and faculty mental health and well-being in the Iowa higher education systems. This first meeting led to the creation of the Higher Education Track at the 2023 Iowa BEST Summit. The collaborative is focused on campus mental health and well-being activities, shared struggles, shared resources and mutual support. Community colleges representatives are welcome to join the collaborative. 

Iowa Higher Education Staff & Faculty Mental Health & Wellbeing Survey - This survey explores staff and faculty perceptions of their mental health and well-being, perceptions of institutional support for this and self-perceptions of competence and confidence to support student mental health and well-being. We’ve had nearly 1100 participants from seven Iowa community colleges complete the survey thus far. For data on staff and faculty mental health and well-being on your campus, participate in the survey.

Contact Barry Schreier at for more information on how to join the collaborative and how to access the survey.

Southwestern Community College students excel at state skilled trades competition

Four students with first place medals

Southwestern Community College (SWCC) student Ethan Mitchell was back for a second year of competition at the SkillsUSA State Leadership and Skills Conference in Ankeny on April 28. He, along with over 500 other Iowa high school and college students, took part in the annual state contest to show his technical skills, acumen and workforce readiness for industries in the skilled trades.

The two-day competition featured over 50 different contests in the areas of skilled trades, leadership and professional skills development. Judged by industry professionals, students from across the state competed against their peers in timed activities related to advanced manufacturing, customer service, carpentry, robotics, job interviews, welding and more.

“The SkillsUSA Iowa championships help students develop their technical skills as well as their workplace and personal skills,” said Kent Storm, state director for SkillsUSA Iowa. “A student can be the best welder in the state, but if they don’t know how to apply for a job or interview for a position, no one will ever know their skill sets. That’s why we also focus on critical thinking skills, teamwork and communication in SkillsUSA.”

2023 Iowa BEST Summit to feature higher education track

Iowa BEST Summit logo

In its third year of the conference, the Iowa BEST Summit will now include sessions on higher education.

The Higher Education Track, with a focus on “Building a Community of Care for Staff and Faculty Mental Health and Well-being in Higher Education,” will feature a plenary session from the Regent universities and their work on creating a health-promoting campus. Multiple concurrent sessions and workshops centered around caring for self and caring for others will be led by higher education experts from around the state. Additionally, roundtable opportunities will be offered to attendees for network and share struggles, successes, information, collaborative opportunities and resources.

The Iowa BEST Summit will be held October 5-6 in Des Moines. Past attendance of the summit saw nearly 1,600 attendees.

More information on the summit and how to register for this free conference will be released this summer!