There’s an increased emphasis on bringing in-state students into the three state-supported universities and that has ramped up the competition with private schools for graduating Iowa high schoolers. Jonathan Brand, the president of Cornell College, says the Mount Vernon school is continually seeking to increase the number of in-state students. “About seventeen percent of our students now are from Iowa..and that number has got to grow,” Brand says. He says it’s an important issue for the school that has nearly 12-hundred students.
“I so firmly believe — without giving up our national or international focus — when you have a healthy number of students from your home state, it anchors the student body, the culture, the population, in the healthiest of ways.” The college has launched what it calls a “Promise Grant” which Brand says makes Cornell a good deal. “Which is 20-thousand dollars per year for four years for those Iowa students who are admitted to Cornell College,” Brand explains. “That is our way of saying that we want to make sure that Cornell is accessible to them, that we want them here.”
The discount brings Cornell’s tuition next fall to 18-thousand-dollars for Iowa residents and brings it within five-thousand dollars of what the University of Iowa is listing as its base tuition. Brand says the school is looking to grow, even in the more competitive environment. “Our plan over the next seven to ten years is to grow initially to sixteen-hundred students. And, at that point, we’ll take a breather and make sure that the academic experience is of the same caliber and quality that it is today,” Brand says. He says they realize they are fighting strong headwinds with the demographics in the upper Midwest, and in Iowa. The school does draw eighty-three percent its students from regions that are growing like the west coast and Chicago has also been a target area.
M.J. Dolan, executive director of the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees, says the fifteen regionally-based colleges draw from outside too, dispelling the notion that they are exclusively Iowan.
“And it think it’s important, certainly for Iowa’s community colleges, we welcome all young people coming into this state,” Dolan says. But she says they also depend on a diverse variety of Iowa students. “Certainly we’ve seen that in our communities with the increasing minority populations all across rural Iowa as well as the urban areas, inviting those folks in. You know, we have so many stories, the Cattlemen’s Association approached us and was interested in getting training for Latino workers in the cattle industry. We had a German company come to Estherville, Iowa who is interested in getting training for the wind industry.” Dolan does acknowledges that Iowa’s community colleges largely depend on the same pool of Iowa students as the other schools.
“I don’t want to lead anyone astray saying that we aren’t concerned about the unintended consequences of a policy that takes our Iowa students and wants to put them into many institutions when there aren’t enough to go around,” Dolan says. Dolan’s reference to unintended consequences is a reference to the proposed Board of Regents policy which changes the funding formula to distribute money based on the number of in-state students.