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 can be well worth the cost 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 10 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.