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Community College Retention Rates

Updated: Thursday, October 10 2013, 12:32 AM CDT
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- Landscaping is a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

As landscaping majors at Kirkwood Community College, Courtney Branstad and Ross Parcel say sign them up.

“I just wanna have that piece of paper saying I'm qualified to do my job,” Parcel said.

Both are working towards their degrees - Ross in his second year, Courtney in her 3rd. Both of them are also going against the retention trend at Iowa community colleges.

A new report from Iowa Workforce Development shows that less than half of students go to the same school for both freshman and sophomore years. That's nearly four percent lower than the national average.

Over at Kirkwood, retention sits at 47%.

“It's certainly something that is on our radar,” said Bobbi Miller Associate Dean of Students at Kirkwood.

Miller says there are several factors at play. There’s the fact that Kirkwood is open access with no enrollment requirements. In addition, Miller says some students sometimes see Kirkwood as a stepping stone to larger 4 year institutions.

She says individual life circumstances may throw a wrench in college plans as well.

“Transportation issues, child care, those types of things that prevent them from succeeding from the first year to the second year,” Miller said.

Troy McQuillen, a professor in the Landscaping department has seen the issues first hand.

“Sometimes I think students just aren't mentally prepared for college,” McQuillen said.

He says retention in his department, and applied sciences in general, have been strong. Still, he's seen some drop early in pursuit of a job - often one that’s not up to their potential.

“It's pretty discouraging for me as a faculty member because I know that they need it, I know they can be successful,” McQuillen said.

Branstad says she won't be enticed by an early exit.

“If you have a passion for it, you'll stick to it, and you'll follow through with it.” 

Kirkwood officials say they have been making progress. There's an orientation program for new students and a class that introduces them to college life and college resources. Kirkwood says their studies show that the class makes students 2 1/2 times more likely to graduate from the college. Community College Retention Rates

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