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Creating Opportunity and Saving Money...BEFORE College

Posted on September 15, 2022 at 12:00 PM by Monica Clark

Getting ahead in high school

Throughout the country, 9 out of every 10 high schools offer college courses to their students. Joint enrollment (also known as concurrent enrollment) is the most common model, where students take classes through their high school while jointly enrolled in a community college to earn college credit. Nationally, 34% of high school students complete at least one college class in high school. In Iowa, that number is much higher at 57% (behind only Indiana and Idaho).

Participation in Iowa is so robust that jointly enrolled high school students make up 40.4% of all community college students. In recent years, even more opportunities have become available through regional Career Academies. These academies offer career-focused courses at regional centers often serving more than one high school and offering college credits that might not otherwise be available.

Better Outcomes

There is good reason to continue to expand these opportunities. Research and data consistently show better outcomes for jointly enrolled students than their peers.

  • Within eight years of high school graduation, 87.5% of former jointly enrolled students enrolled in postsecondary education compared to 67.0% of non-jointly enrolled students.

  • 75.5% of former jointly enrolled students enrolled in postsecondary education in the fall of their graduation year compared to 50.4% of non-jointly enrolled students.

  • 61.9% of former jointly enrolled students entered an Iowa community college within eight years of high school graduation compared to 49.6% of non-jointly enrolled students.

  • 50.4% of former jointly enrolled students received an award or transferred to a four-year college within three years compared to 35.3% of non-jointly enrolled

Cost Savings

In addition to improving academic performance and setting students up for great careers, these opportunities can also save families on college tuition expenses. On average, students with joint enrollment experience who enter an Iowa community college bring 11.2 credit hours, which is a potential savings of $1,474.04.

Despite the successes, there is still more work to be done to expand this opportunity to more students. Low-income and rural students are less likely to participate, as are non-white students. Providing more courses in career and technical education could help to bring more students in and new College and Career Transition staff could help make sure students know what is available to them.


"Fast Facts." NACEP: Accessed September 14, 2022. 

Iowa Department of Education. 2021 The Annual Condition of Iowa's Community Colleges. 2021. 

Iowa Department of Education. Outcomes of Jointly Enrolled Students in Iowa: A Study of the 2011 High School Graduation Cohort. 2021. 

"Joint Enrollment Outcomes." Iowa Department of Education. Accessed September 14, 2022.

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