Luther College and Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) are partnering in an effort to meet growing workforce needs in the social work field.
On Thursday, Luther President Jenifer K. Ward and NICC President Liang Chee Wee signed the articulation agreement, creating an associate of arts (A.A.) to bachelor of arts (B.A.) social work transfer pathway. This transfer pathway will provide students the opportunity to complete an A.A. degree at NICC with credits that directly transfer to Luther, allowing them to obtain their B.A. in social work in only two additional years.
"This partnership signals an important step in advancing Luther's strategic plan initiative to create new Iowa and Minnesota community college transfer pathways and improve institutional capacity for transfer student success," said President Ward. "I am grateful to our faculty and staff and to our counterparts at NICC for the work that enables us to collaborate in ways that benefit both our students and the communities they will serve as social workers in northeast Iowa and beyond."

Improving lives
NICC students who enroll in the program will complete a two-year sequence of courses and would begin at Luther as juniors. During their study at NICC, students would also complete two social work courses offered by Luther.
"Northeast Iowa Community College’s mission aims to improve lives and lift communities. Our partnership with Luther College enables both institutions to combine our efforts to enhance the students' preparations for the betterment of those they will serve in their calling," said President Wee.
A 2019 report conducted by the University of Iowa and the National Association of Social Workers Iowa Chapter found that the social work workforce is projected to grow in Iowa between 15 percent and 22 percent from 2016 to 2026. The report states that "schools of social work have a role to play in strengthening recruitment to meet critical workforce needs." Britt Rhodes, associate professor of social work at Luther, agrees.
"We have a responsibility to those living in our state and region to provide the highest quality professional social work services and one of the ways we can do that is by opening additional pathways for students to pursue a career in social work," said Rhodes.
Luther has a long history of educating social workers. According to Rhodes, work began to establish Luther's program in 1973. By 1976, the program was accredited and has been ever since.
"Work on this began in 1973 because we had creative faculty who saw value in adding a professional track to the offerings at the college," said Rhodes. "I think this partnership represents an extension of that creative thinking and attention to what are students are looking for."
The new social work transfer pathway joins a group of more than 10 similar transfer agreements established by NICC and four-year institutional partners. NICC currently offers A.A. and A.S. transfer programs in biology, business, criminal justice, psychology and sociology.