Supervisors Updated On College
Val Newhouse, President of Iowa Lakes Community College, made her annual visit to the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 24.
The board heard an update on the college and its various programs and activities.
“We just received an Rural Utility Services Distance Learning and Telemedicine (RUSDLT) grant for $500,000, which will allow us to equip all nine of our high schools in the area with the same telecommunications equipment that we have so that students can access the classes at the high school instead of coming to the college or instead of us trying to find a teacher to send to the high school,” shared Newhouse. “This works out really, really well.”
Newhouse went on to say that enrollment at Iowa Lakes has decreased slightly.
“We had two really strong years attributed to the economic conditions in this part of the area,” Newhouse explained. “And we are very typical of what happened to the rest of the state, as well. Nine of the 15 community colleges had decreased enrollment.”
She noted that the college had expected the drop and planned for it.
“Our economy is pretty good in this part of the state compared to others,” said Newhouse. “That’s a gift.”
Supervisor Leo Goeders asked if this was the first year that enrollment has went down.
“No, it’s happened three times in ten years, but we just don’t publicize it,” answered Newhouse with a smile. “I’m estimating it’ll be trending down about 6-percent.”
“How many people does that amount to?” asked Supervisor Jerry Hofstad.
“That amounts to around a couple hundred,” Newhouse said.
Supervisor Ed Noonan wondered if the college had to drop any classes.
“We did have to drop a couple of English courses this semester just because we couldn’t find any instructors to teach them. Our instructors were maxed,” said Newhouse. “As far as programs, we’ll see. Our programs that we have right now are basically based on the enrollment that we have right now with the exception of one.”
Newhouse added that the college added a Veterinary Technology program at the Emmetsburg campus this year.
“That was quite a process,” Newhouse explained. “We want to be certified by the national accrediting body and so we’ve gone through quite a bit to get that facility in place. In the spring we’ll have an open house and invite everyone out to take a look.”
Newhouse added that the program currently has 20 students enrolled with a limit of 25. A veterinarian and a veterinary technician have been hired as instructors for the program.
“Is that a two-year program?” asked Supervisor Ron Graettinger.
“Yes, it is designed to enter the work force,” said Newhouse. “If a student wants to eventually go on to be a veterinarian, this will also allow them to get a taste of it and have the ability to work as a tech while going to veterinary school or completing their degree, but they would have to take additional arts and sciences classes in order to get that A.A. that will transfer.”
She added that this is the first year that swimming has been included as a competitive sport at the college. Meets are held at the Smith Wellness Center pool on the Emmetsburg campus of Iowa Lakes. This is the first time an athletic program has been offered at the college’s Emmetsburg branch.
Newhouse went on share the differences in the student enrollment comparing the Fall of 2010 to the Fall of 2011: 68-percent of Iowa Lakes students come from the immediate five-county area; 85-percent overall come from Iowa (from 72 counties); 7-percent come from Minnesota; and 8-percent come from out-of-state (not including Minnesota) which includes 31 other U.S. states, one U.S. territory, and six foreign countries. In Palo Alto County, 392 students total are enrolled. Of that number, 152 are high school students who are dual-enrolled at Iowa Lakes.
“With the shrinking population in the immediate five-county area, we need to either go up further in recruitment, but certainly we need to work on economic development to get these families moving into the area,” noted Newhouse.
Newhouse cited the top five reasons that a student attends Iowa Lakes: availability of a program, cost, opportunities for financial aid or scholarships, location, and the variety of courses offered. She noted that, last year, the college gave out approximately $850,000 in scholarships.
“The college is already a good value for students, but add the scholarship opportunities and it’s an excellent value,” said Newhouse.
In athletics, the college had 117 freshmen and 57 sophomores (174 total) participate in events. Of that number, 34 were from the immediate five-county area.
Newhouse addressed Iowa Lakes’ graduation rate for first-time, full-time students.
“The graduation rate if 51.4-percent, and while that doesn’t sound real great, but it’s better than the state average which is 35.8-percent,” said Newhouse. “Nationally, we’re at the 96th percentile for graduation rates compared to the other colleges in the state and country who participate in this program.”
Newhouse added that students attend community colleges for a variety of reasons, not always degree attainment.
“How’s the Wind Program doing?” asked Goeders.
“The program is doing very well,” said Newhouse. “We moved our Bio-fuels Program from the Emmetsburg campus to the Estherville campus and we have that program partnering with the Wind Program because there’s a lot of electronic systems that duel-cooperate. Our Bio-fuels Program struggled at the Emmetsburg campus, but it should do better with the change of location.”
She noted that all of the renewable fuels programs are now on the same campus, and the college is looking at adding geothermal, HVAC, and solar education to the offerings. The Iowa Lakes Wind Program was one of the first three programs in the nation to be given a seal of approval by the American Wind Energy Association last year.
The Supervisors thanked Newhouse for her update.