DMACC Students Add Two Plus Two to get a Four-Year Degree - Iowa College Access Network - ICAN

DMACC Students Add Two Plus Two to get a Four-Year Degree

Central Iowa students in increasing numbers are seeing Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) as a two-year, affordable springboard to a four-year or advanced degree.

To date, DMACC students have transferred to an amazing 925 colleges and universities around the country, including every private and public college in Iowa. And more than 65 percent of current DMACC students say they plan to transfer to a four-year college or university.

One explanation for this trend is the fact that most four-year college majors require a certain set of “core courses” such as English, natural and social sciences. Where these core courses are taken is increasingly irrelevant. That fact has caused many students to take their liberal arts core courses at DMACC and then transfer their credits to their destination four-year school.

Why DMACC? The answers lie in several key advantages.

An Antidote for Student Debt

The price tag alone has always argued strongly for starting at DMACC. Full-time, in-state tuition for the 2015–16 academic year at DMACC totaled just $4,290, some 45 percent less than the $7,855 average full-time tuition charged by Iowa’s three public universities. And DMACC’s tuition costs a whopping 85 percent less than the typical Iowa private college’s full-time tuition and fees. 

It doesn’t take a math major to calculate a savings of $7,130 on two years of college at DMACC compared to the same two years at an Iowa public university. That’s a big number, especially in this era of enormous student debt.

According to research by the Institute for College Access & Success, in 2014, 69 percent of graduates from Iowa four-year public and private colleges and universities started their careers with an average of $29,732 in student debt. In fact, Iowa students have the eighth highest average debt load in the nation, more than any surrounding state except Minnesota.

Honors Program Offers Challenging Academics

For many parents and students, the bottom line is academic quality, not tuition costs. To respond to the demand for high-rigor courses, in 2013 DMACC launched its Honors Program, the first such program at an Iowa community college. The Honors Program seeks to challenge and stimulate high-ability students with high academic standards. A high school 3.5 GPA and ACT score of 26 or better are required for admission to the program. On top of advanced core classes, DMACC’s 20-hour program also includes one-on-one faculty mentorship, leadership opportunities, invitations to social, cultural and speaker series events and travel to national Honors conferences.

Better Preparation

Studies also show most college freshmen enter school undecided on a career. Further, many students will change career fields at least once during college. By starting at DMACC, transfer students have time to consider career options while taking core courses that fulfill the requirements of a wide variety of majors. So while taking their core classes, students have the opportunity to explore various interests, both formally and informally, to decide on a major before they’ve committed time and money taking classes in majors they later abandon.

Increased Four-Year College Success

Not only does starting at a community college like DMACC save students money and give them time to decide on a career, community colleges do an excellent job of preparing students to succeed at four-year schools. According to a study by the Community College Research Center published in 2014, college students who transfer to four-year colleges after getting a two-year Associate’s degree are more likely to earn a Bachelor’s degree than similar students who transfer without an Associate’s degree. That research has motivated DMACC to increase efforts to create programs and services that help students stay in school and eventually graduate with their Associate’s degree before transferring to their four-year school.

Two-for-One Enrollment

A more recent evolution of the transfer student phenomenon has been development of Advanced Admissions Programs (AAP) such as the one DMACC established with Iowa State University. The program offers DMACC students a schedule of liberal arts courses preapproved for transfer to the destination four-year school, guaranteeing admission if the student meets all of the requirements. Students also receive academic counseling from both DMACC and Iowa State to make sure they stay on track. DMACC students in the ISU APP program have the option of living in ISU campus housing and enjoy full student access to all of Iowa State’s facilities and amenities, including cultural, entertainment and sports events. Some of the other seamless transfer agreements with DMACC include the University of Iowa, Drake University, Grinnell College, Grand View University, Buena Vista University and the University of Northern Iowa.

A Smart Place to Start

On top of the financial, academic and personal preparation advantages, DMACC has also spent the past decade adding and improving assets such as on-campus housing, student recreational facilities, clubs and activities to deliver more of a four-year college atmosphere.

For many 21st century college students, all of these factors put together have made starting at DMACC the smart choice . . . academically, financially and personally.

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