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Partnering with area high schools

There are many aspects in the way that Iowa Central Community College reaches out to communities in its nine-county service area. Offering college credit courses at one of the nearest centers is the most popular and visible options, but there are many others. One example is the non-credit offerings of trainings that many take advantage of which might be recreational or career service directed. However, have you ever stopped to think about the high school partnerships that allow students to obtain college credit while they are still in high school?

There is a lot that goes into the college credit courses offered locally within your school district. Your local school district administrators and teachers work hard alongside of the Iowa Central staff to align the different types of courses that might be offered at each district. The state of Iowa allows for some variations in the college courses offered as well as the program in which they are contracted under. In most cases, the school district and Iowa Central are entering into a 28-E contract and are partnering through the Iowa Department of Education’s Senior Year Plus Programming. The most popular of these Senior Year Plus opportunities is the Concurrent Enrollment option that allows a teacher to instruct the class within the walls of the school district. This may be a college faculty member instructing the class, or an already existing teacher at the district teaching the class. Regardless of which certified teacher instructs the course, the high school students who enroll in these courses are able to get both high school and college credit.

Since its inaugural year of 1995, the program has grown considerably over the last 20 years. Some of you who have graduated high school in the last 10 years probably completed a couple of courses that were for college credit through the Concurrent Enrollment program. These courses vary from career and technical to arts and science. In the career and technical area, students have had access to program courses such as automotive technician, welding, computer aided drafting, agriculture, manufacturing and many others. The arts and sciences can also vary, but some of the popular courses over the years have been courses in the areas of psychology, composition and mathematics.

The offerings vary at each school district, but each district in Iowa Central’s service area does take part in these opportunities. If an on-campus class is not always most advantageous, other opportunities do exist such as offering classes online for college credit. Students use the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options or Online Concurrent Enrollment as a way to take classes that cannot be made available to the student at their high school location.

Value

Placing a value on post-secondary education is not something that one can do easily. It is becoming second nature to many in Iowa Central Community College’s service area for students to take advantage of college credit opportunities while in high school. Most students take advantage of these offerings during their junior and senior year. During this past academic year of 2015-16, high school students averaged 6.8 credit hours of college level courses.

So, what is the value of these credits? While there is no true value that one can place on the content, experience or training that a student endures throughout a class, value can be placed on the amount students saved on tuition.

Tuition and fees for 2015-16 was $163 per credit hour. Students who completed a three credit hour Concurrent Enrollment course saved $489 if they were to attend Iowa Central. Those attending an Iowa Regent University would save $786 and those attending a private college would save $2,967. If you multiply this out over more credits, the value grows over thousands of dollars. It is very typical that some students complete 25 college credit hours during their time in high school. Once again, the math on this multiplied out would be $4,075 at Iowa Central, $6,550 at the Iowa Regent Universities, and $24,725 in tuition to attend one of the private colleges in Iowa.

Benefits

Beyond the dollar figures with Concurrent Enrollment, there are many benefits that surround these opportunities. For some students, they are now able to determine what program or career pathway they would like to venture into after high school. One student commented that after taking a nurse aide course, she decided nursing was not the program she wanted due to her fear of needles. Some may ask why this is a benefit to the student and view this as a negative comment. However, this helped the student decide early on that nursing was not something she was going to be able to do or enjoy; she can now focus on a different career choice. If the student was to attend college and in the first semester decided that this was not the program for her, it not only cost her tuition, but time that she could have been starting a different program/career.

Another advantage of taking concurrent enrollment credit is the length of time in college. If planned correctly, students can shorten the length of time they attend college. In the example above, with a student who completes 25 credit hours, this student has nearly one year already completed. Even if it does not shave off a year from their overall time in college, it can help to bolster the graduation timeframe in the one, two or four years they slated to attend college. It can help to ensure that the student can complete within the desired timeframe. There have been a few students who have been known to graduate early from Iowa Central with an associate’s degree, go on to a bachelor’s degree (in which they completed in three total years) and finally go on to graduate with their master’s degree (within four years) while some of their friends were trying to simply finish their bachelor’s degree in that same timeframe.

In many other situations, students find that it can boost their confidence or excite them about a career. Iowa Central has been concentrating on new efforts to help support students early in the career decision-making process. The newest activity that Iowa Central has added is the Career Day. Many positive comments and suggestions have come out of the Career Days and the college continues to look at expanding upon this concept in other new and creative ways.

Are all of these situations going to fit every student? No, it will not. However, if the goal in education is to challenge each student and raise the bar, then I would say that Iowa Central in partnership with the local school districts, is doing just that. Students have to want to take advantage of these opportunities, but making the opportunities available is part of the services that Iowa Central strives to make for the constituents in this region. So, the next time you wonder if Iowa Central has an impact on you, think about your past educational history, your spouse, children, or grandkids and think about the “other” types of services that Iowa Central may offer that have impacted you or your family’s life in one way or another.

T.J. Martin is Iowa Central’s dean of distance learning.