“Career and College Promise,” launched in November, replaces the older dual enrollment, and Huskins class format that allowed students to attend community colleges for free while they were still enrolled in high school.
The new program offers a more defined path than the previous program aimed at preparing students for a four-year degree, or teaching them valuable technical skills that will make them a more successful job applicant.
The college transfer course of study will allow high school juniors and seniors to earn tuition-free course credits toward a four-year degree through North Carolina’s community colleges. All 58 institutions that make up the North Carolina Community College will participate in the program, in addition to independent colleges and universities.
The program will also allow high school juniors and seniors to earn tuition-free course credits at an N.C. Community College toward an entry-level job credential, certificate, or diploma in a technical career.
“The concept is that you are building credits towards a career or a four-year university,” said Director of Wilkes Community College’s Ashe Campus Chris Robinson. “Career and College Promise classes are available to high school juniors and seniors regardless of age tuition free, though they are required to purchase textbooks in most cases.”
Robinson said the new program does have special eligibility requirements: a student must have a 3.0 GPA in their high school classes and must be “college ready” in English, math, and reading as demonstrated on the SAT, ACT, PSAT, PLAN, or through WCC’s Accuplacer placement test.
“Students won’t be able to mix and match scores from sections of different tests,” said Robinson. “Students will have to show college readiness on one test instrument.” Once enrolled, students will have to maintain a 2.0 in their college courses to stay enrolled in the program.
Robinson said the program will also cater to students with interest in developing a technical skillset; the requirements for entry into technical courses are the same with one exception. A high school principal or designee may sign off and give their permission for a student (who falls below the 3.0 GPA cutoff) to attend technical classes.
“The reasoning for that is that some of the students going into technical areas are more closely focused on preparing themselves for a specific career,” said Robinson. “In those cases, we would be trying to get folks job ready as expidiciously as possible.”
Robinson said the new program will give more structure to technical programs and allows students interested in a particular area to have a “very organized path to reach an applied science degree.” He said the college transfer program had slight negatives the old program lacked.
“College transfer students have to be college ready in all areas to take advantage of the program,” said Robinson. “We all have strengths and weaknesses, and some kids that may otherwise have done well in certain courses won’t be allowed to because of their weaknesses. I know getting ready for my own high school graduation, I probably would have been weaker in math than English or reading, and that may have hurt me slightly.”
Robinson said the rationale for requiring college readiness across all areas is that a student with a weak area should stay at the high school level where they can get the best instruction to address that particular weakness.
“The general education programs of study are also fairly proscriptive,” said Robinson. “Under the current programs outlined, it provides a little less choice in terms of elective credits. You want students to have the opportunity to explore their interests, and maybe discover something else they have a knack for.”
The purpose for designing the program with less flexibility is meant to help students in larger areas who received less help laying out their course of study in the past.
“At Wilkes, we’re very fortunate that we get to know our high school students and their specific needs,” said Robinson. “Compare that to a place like Wake Tech, which is a much larger operation, and you see that kind of attention isn’t always logistically possible. What we can do well on the smaller scale, you just can’t duplicate on a larger scale.”
Robinson said the entire plan isn’t yet ready, though there are currently four approved courses of study in the college prep area. “We’ve yet to fully outline the technical programs; it’s definitely a moving target.”
“The intention is to introduce a couple areas of study in the spring, perhaps business administration, and prepare to roll out the program en masse next fall,” said Robinson. “The high school schedules are basically laid out, so it’d be tough to introduce anything new right in the middle of the year like this.”
Over the long term, Robinson said he expects to see more technical students take advantage of the opportunities the program will offer. “It’s a little more defined, and we think quite a few will be excited by graduating high school that much closer to being job ready.”
Robinson listed the flight engineering program as one of the college’s strongest programs in terms of employment prospects. “We rarely have graduates of the program walk out the door without a job offer,” said Robinson. He also listed the human service field, including early childhood education, as a valuable program for those interested.
“Those positions are harder to find on occasion,” said Robinson. “But we should have CCP components for those programs ironed out by the fall.”
Robinson said the allied health program, including nursing and respiratory therapy, would not be eligible for career and college promise students, but that the program could still shorten an applicant’s path through the program.
“The allied health programs are competitive, but every program has a general education requirement,” said Robinson. “High school students interested in applying can take advantage of the general education classes which could make them more competitive and shorten the time to get into the program.”
For parents or students interested in Career and College Promise, contact Chris Robinson at the Ashe Campus of Wilkes Community College at 846-3900 or Joallen Lowder at 846-2400.
“Either myself, or Joallen, who works very closely with kids at the high school, will be able to answer most questions,” said Robinson. The Wilkes Community College website, www.wilkescc.edu, should also be updated shortly with program specifics.