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In the early to mid-90s, enrollment in the dental technology department at Kirkwood Community College (KCC) was so low there was talk of shutting its doors. Today, those doors are still open and stay open even later thanks to growing enrollment numbers.
KCC —one of only 19 ADA-accredited programs left in the country — had always limited the program to 15 students due to lack of space but, three years ago, the program's waiting list grew to the point where the school could justify adding an evening program. Currently, there are 24 full-time students: 15 during the day and nine in the evening.
According to Betty Mitchell, Program Coordinator and a KCC graduate, several factors are working in Kirkwood's favor, including the high rate of unemployment. "Our numbers began to steadily increase just as the economy started to decline," says Mitchell. "People were losing their jobs and taking the opportunity to change their careers." About half of the students have entered the two-year program for this purpose.
Technology plays an important role in the KCC curriculum. During the second year, students have the opportunity to use CAD/CAM scanners and milling equipment to fabricate restorations and are exposed to 3D printing technology by visiting a nearby laboratory, Dental Prosthetic Services. In addition, the curriculum is placing more of an emphasis on implants.
Located in Cedar Rapids, IA, KCC is just down the road from the University of Iowa and works with the University's School of Dentistry. In their second year, KCC students get paired up with sophomore and junior dental students at the University clinic, gaining practical experience and seeing treatment first-hand.
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