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Kirkwood, UI plan 1st-in-nation alliance Would allow community college to build facility on UI campus

Monday, 29 August 2011

The University of Iowa Oakdale Research Campus in Coralville could be home to one of three new Kirkwood Community College education centers in just a few years if voters approve a bond referendum for the community college next month.

UI has agreed to provide space on its Oakdale Campus for Kirkwood to build the facility, and Kirkwood President Mick Starcevich said it could be the first such partnership anywhere in the country.

"We think it will be the first time in the nation where a four-year college will allow a community college to locate on its campus," he said.

The education center would house programs for K-12 and college students, and 11 local high schools already have expressed interest in sending students to the Oakdale Center if it is built, Starcevich said.

The proposed bond that would generate $46.5 million for Kirkwood will go before voters in seven Eastern Iowa counties, including Johnson, during the Sept. 13 special election.

If approved, the vote would extend a current bond issue passed in 2005 and running through 2015 for an additional 15 years, through 2030. Property owners would continue to pay 20 cents on every $1,000 of valuation, so they would not see an increase in their property taxes, Starcevich said.

The bond funding would help pay for three new regional education centers, including one in the Marion and Hiawatha area and another in Washington. It also would help fund renovations to Linn Hall on Kirkwood's main campus in Cedar Rapids, Starcevich said.

Kirkwood already operates one education center, the Jones Regional Education Center in Monticello, where about 140 high school students take college-level courses each day, Starcevich said.

The Oakdale center likely would be about 60,000 square feet and offer everything from auto-tech classes to certified nurse assistant training, and classes in writing, math and social sciences.

Starcevich said having the new facility could take some strain off the crowded Iowa City campus, where finding parking is often a problem. Kirkwood and UI already have a very strong partnership, he said. More than half of the community college students who transfer to UI come from Kirkwood, and the two-year school already rents one classroom from UI at the Old Capitol Towne Center in downtown Iowa City. There, Kirkwood offers math and foreign language courses for UI students.

"They're a great partner," Starcevich said. "When we began talking about (an education center) in the Iowa City region, they came forth right away and said, 'How about the Oakdale campus?'"

By pooling resources and hosting courses at one center, Kirkwood and area high schools can offer more courses for less money, Starcevich said.

"It really makes sense, particularly in this time of hardly any additional state support," he said. "It's practical."

West High Principal Jerry Arganbright said after touring the Monticello center, he's confident a similar setup would benefit area students.

"It can be a marvelous additional learning opportunity for our students," Arganbright said. "Many of these are programs we'd like to offer our kids, but are just too expensive."

City High Principal John Bacon agreed.

"It was obvious in Monticello that this was really being run out of a really state-of-the-art facility," Bacon said. "For some of these programs like auto shop or high-tech-type activities that are expensive to run, it makes sense to consolidate. Students would get to utilize high-powered equipment and get a sense of what it'd be like out in the real world to access that equipment."

Starcevich said that more than 4,800 students from the 11 local high school schools, which include West, City, Solon, Clear Creek Amana, Tipton, West Branch, West Liberty, Community College, Lisbon, Highland and Mount Vernon, took the equivalent of $2.42 million in Kirkwood courses last year, and received more than 20,500 credit hours.

Taking college courses while in high school has become increasingly popular for students, both as a way to save money and to help prepare for taking a full college course load, Starcevich said.

"A lot of students have a semester of college out of the way by the time they graduate high school," he said. "There's been much more interest from high school students, but also a lot of interest from their parents. They want them to have a step up when they go to college."



Last updated ( Tuesday, 30 August 2011 )

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