In terms of quality of life, Iowans can certainly take pride in their state. The Iowa Department of Economic Development has an entire list of honors and accolades bestowed on the state by organizations across the country. In 2010, among other honors, Iowa was named the second most livable state in the nation by CQ Press and the sixth best state to raise a child by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
As Iowa moves out of the recession, state leaders have placed a renewed focus on higher education. According to information published by the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, by 2018 approximately 62 percent of all jobs in Iowa are expected to require post-secondary education. The commission identified Iowa online schools as one avenue for state residents to obtain the higher education they need to fill these future jobs.
Iowa Encourages Students to Pursue Higher Education
At the center of the state's push toward higher education is the "I Have a Plan Iowa" web portal. Launched by the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, the online platform was created to encourage and prepare students for higher education. A key component of the program is financial literacy to reduce student debt in Iowa. The commission reported in 2010 that student debt levels in the state are among the highest in the nation at an average of $28,883.
Despite the student debt statistics, earning a degree remains one of the best ways to improve employment prospects for state residents. The U.S. Census Bureau found that from 2005 to 2009, unemployment for Iowa adults was less than two percent for those with a bachelor's degree. However, the average unemployment rate jumped to ten percent for those with less than a high school diploma.
Improving Educational Opportunities Through Online Schools
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that there are 65 Title IV degree-granting institutions in Iowa, which is somewhat below the national average of 88 per state. In order to make higher education more accessible for Iowans, many institutions--both public and private--are turning toward virtual classrooms and online degree programs.
For example, in 1999, seven of the state's community colleges joined to form the Iowa Community College Online Consortium. The group has worked since its formation to develop standard policies and procedures as well as train instructors and coordinate student services for Iowa online schools.
Private universities and colleges have also participated in developing Iowa online degree programs. The Iowa College Student Aid Commission notes that approximately 68,000 students pursued online degree programs at two state for-profit universities in 2008.
Online degree programs can also help reduce costs for working families, meeting a need facing many Iowa students. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education gave Iowa an "F" for affordability in 2008, indicating a need for lower costs and increased access to higher education. Students enrolled in Iowa online schools do not have to pay for parking or commuting and may be able to take fewer courses per semester to spread out their tuition costs.
Hot Jobs for Iowa College Graduates
Iowa online degree programs can prepare students for a wide range of career options in some of the state's fastest growing occupations. Iowa Workforce Development, a state agency, publishes a list of the top 50 high demand and high wage occupations in the state. From 2008-2018, the following are some of the hottest occupations for bachelor's degree holders in Iowa as well as their 2010 mean salary:
- Construction managers: $83,469
- Computer software engineers, system software: $77,664
- Civil engineers: $76,238
- Financial examiners: $74,474
While most careers on the hot jobs list require an undergraduate or graduate degree, high demand careers exist for those with associate degrees as well. Dental hygienists, another profession on the list, generally require only a two-year degree. Professionals in this occupation earned a mean salary of $64,093 in 2010.
In a state that values higher education, the online schools in Iowa provide students with an alternative to traditional degree programs. Iowans enrolled in distance learning can study at their own pace while earning a degree that can improve both their employment and income potential.