Community Colleges looking at enrollment hikes - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Community Colleges looking at enrollment hikes

Robert Patree does work for his community college class. Robert Patree does work for his community college class.

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- For some, a job layoff translates into a new opportunity - an opportunity to change careers.

The place more likely to see those people - Iowa's community colleges.

This fall, the 15 community colleges around the state reported record enrollment.

35% of those students enrolled in career and technical education tracks.

More than half of all students go to school part-time.

With a floundering national economy, community colleges everywhere are bracing for even higher enrollment.

Robert Partee was laid off from his job at Eagle Ottawa Tannery in Waterloo December 1.

He's now weighing his options which include going back to school.

"It's kinda real weird. When you get comfortable in a spot after while, you don't like to move but when something like this happens, it almost forces you to pursue other things so it's like a blessing in disguise," said Partee.

Partee plans to apply to Hawkeye Community College.

The Waterloo campus has seen steady enrollment around 5800 students this fall.

School officials expect to see more students apply for a number of reasons.

"I think it's kind of unprecedented. I think we're seeing the perfect storm of things happening. We anticipate, historically, an increase in demand in applied science whenever there's an economic downturn, we'll see an increase in demand in skilled training," said David Ball, Admissions Director at Hawkeye Community College.

Robert Partee says he'll study welding on his return to school.

"It's a scary situation - transitioning from something you just do. I knew exactly where i needed to be, what time - then this happens like what do you do now. Now i'm mustering up the courage to see how far my brain will take me and where a trade will take me," said Partee.

Partee and his fellow Eagle Ottawa workers will get extra federal assistance because their jobs are being moved to Mexico.

But for those who are going back to school, there are ways to cut costs.

You just have to be diligent on finding scholarships, grants, and loans to help finance that education.

The most popular studies at Iowa's Community Colleges continue to be health care and information technology.

Career counselors at Kirkwood Community College say they also see industrial maintenance and education as growing fields that will need workers soon.

Online Reporter:  Bob Waters

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