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MUSCATINE — A new report issued by the Iowa State Board of Education found more high students are taking community college classes for credit during high school.

While statewide joint enrollment has increased by 4 percent, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, which includes Muscatine Community College, saw a 1 percent increase in its joint enrollment.

"During senior year, we find our students have already taken care of all their required classes for high school so senior year can be a little bit on the lighter side," said Naomi DeWinter, president of Muscatine Community College. "That’s really where we begin to see several students taking advantage of concurrent enrollment where they get a jump-start on their college course work."

There are different ways for high school students to enroll in community college coursework. Post-Secondary Enrollment Opportunities, PSEOs, are part of the Senior Year Plus program. Some may chose to pay tuition and take the classes concurrently with school. But the largest number of students take community college coursework the high school has hired the community college to provide.

While a small percentage of dual enrolled students at EICC were in PSEOs, 4,746 students were in a contracted class. That accounts for 38 percent of EICC’s total enrollment and 24 percent of the college's total credit course hours.

Helping attract students from the high school, Muscatine Community College has an advisor who goes to the schools like Louisa-Muscatine and Muscatine High Schools to get students thinking about courses that will lead to further certification or career readiness.

"(The advisor) helps students figure out a plan so that they are not just taking a collection of courses, which don't really lead to anything," DeWinter said. "Maybe they can finish a certificate or a collection of five or six classes that really helps them shorten the path to a degree after they graduate. Our hope is that it gives them that head start, that success in college that they can build on after they graduate."

According to the report, while 42 percent of the joint enrolled students were seniors, juniors made up 29 percent, sophomores 18 percent and freshmen 11 percent.

While these students can take a number of courses, DeWinter said the academy programs have been growing at Muscatine Community College. 

"We have (academies) in culinary and advanced manufacturing," DeWinter said. "They are built on the idea that they finish the certificate at the same time that they graduate high school. That's a marketable skill when they graduate high school and all those classes ladder into higher degree programs."

DeWinter said joint enrollment programs are an important equalizer for students who face barriers to access, or who are historically underrepresented. For this reason, professors may be contracted to teach college classes at the high school.

"We are sending our full time instructor there so they can really get a picture of what it will be like in the (college) classroom," Dewinter said. "Our hope is that they get inspired to continue on when they come to campus. These are especially in rural community for whom transportation is a real issue. Even Louisa-Muscatine is probably 20 to 25 minutes away. To ask them to come to campus is a barrier.

"When you look at the data (nationally), concurrent enrollment is a great tool to introduce minority students to college," DeWinter said. "We would definitely like to pursue an equal number of Latino students in Muscatine taking classes as white students."

According to the 2016 U.S. Census, Hispanic or Latino people made up for almost 18 percent of the population in Muscatine County. But in EICC's published demographics information, students who identified as Hispanic made up about 10 percent of the population. DeWinter hopes that Latinx and black students who experience split enrollment will find college more approachable. 

"(Split enrollment) is a proven tool to give students a jump start to college," DeWinter said. "Our goal is to give them that start and have them continue on the college campus with all the other students and amenities we have here."