By DUANE NOLLEN
The Oskaloosa Herald
Indian Hills Community College President Dr. Marlene Sprouse visited the Mahaska County Career Academy Thursday to meet the public and talk about the college.
Sprouse became the fourth president of the community college since 1966 on Nov. 1, 2013.
“I was the vice president of Academic Affairs,” she said. “Two years before that, I was dean of the Centerville campus.”
Sprouse said she and other college representatives are traveling to all the county seats in the Indian Hills Community College 10-county service area to meet the public and update them on new things at the college.
There are 15 community colleges in Iowa. Indian Hills is “pretty good size” geographically, and the 136,000 people living in the 10-county area makes the community college “right in the middle” of the group in regards to population served, she said.
As of 2012, Indian Hills had about 5,000 students enrolled — which put the college in the middle of community college rankings, Sprouse said. The school-age population of the 10-county area has declined from 24,000 in 1998 to under 20,000 in 2012, she said.
Sprouse said that Indian Hill's enrollment has been up and down during the past 17 years — the peak being during 2009 to 2011 when the economy was not good. People go to school to get retrained when they lose their job, she said.
“This is not surprising,” Sprouse said. “We hoped it would even out.”
Overall, Sprouse said enrollment during the 17-year period was a “continuous trend in improvement.”
As of 2012, Indian Hills was ranked third in the state for the number of credentials awarded to students.
“That is a statistic we are very proud of,” she said.
In regards to the number of manufacturing degrees awarded, Indian Hills is No. 3 in the state while the community college is No. 1 in transportation-related degrees and certificates, and nursing degrees, Sprouse said.
“We are graduating more nurses than any other part of the state,” Sprouse said. Indian Hills also is working with William Penn University for the university's bachelor's of science in nursing degree, she added.
Sixty percent of Indian Hills students are in the Career or Technical programs at the community college.
“That's one of the things we've worked hard at,” Sprouse said. That takes a lot of equipment — ranging from robots and lasers to airplanes, she added.
Sprouse turned next to the major initiatives at the college.
Sprouse said she and her staff want to streamline processes at the community college to make things clear in regards to people and technology. She said Indian Hills wants to create clear pathways for students to get all the services and support they need to be in the proper program to find a job after graduation.
Sprouse also talked about the new Job Corps facility at the Ottumwa Industrial Airport, near to the Indian Hills North Campus location.
Job Corps was created to give disadvantaged youth ages 16 to 24 an education outlet so they can find good jobs.
The federally funded Job Corps program built eight new buildings at a cost of about $35 million at the Ottumwa site.
“We were very lucky,” she said. “We worked on getting this for eight years.”
Also, Indian Hills has a new Business Incubator site on its North Workforce Campus near the Job Corps site. The Business Incubator will open this spring and address manufacturing and Internet Technology needs, Sprouse said.
Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org