This summer, Wilkes Community College continues roll out of its new Career and College Promise program, a way for Ashe County High School students to simplify and quicken their path to a college degree.
Wilkes Community College Ashe Campus Director Chris Robinson said he’s excited about the program. So are the students evidently. More than 100 ACHS juniors and seniors have enrolled in the program for the fall semester.
Launched last November, Career and College Promise replaces the older dual enrollment and Huskins class format that allowed students to attend North Carolina community colleges for free while they were enrolled in high school.
The program offers high school juniors and seniors the same value of the old format but has been redesigned to be less confusing.
Career and College Promise allows students to complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree, or learn valuable technical skills aimed at making them a more successful job applicant.
Robinson said the program emphasizes more prescribed course selection designed to limit students’ options (to avoid confusion), and was initially designed to help students at the state’s larger community colleges - students who may not get as much one-on-one planning attention as those at Wilkes Community College.
“At Wilkes, we’re very fortunate that we get to know our high school students and their specific needs,” said Robinson in an earlier interview. “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.”
This fall, the program will offer courses in collision repair, a joint venture that will allow Wilkes students to use the facilities at Ashe County High School, three college pathways, applied engineering, business administration and, for the first time in Ashe County, the first year of WCC’s two-year criminal justice degree.
“We anticipate adding other tracks in the future,” said Robinson. “We try to tailor our offerings to what students are asking for, which is why we chose to offer criminal justice, applied engineering, and our business classes.”
Robinson said this is the first year the Ashe Campus has offered criminal justice courses, and said interested students will be able to take their first year of criminal justice classes in Ashe County, and can attend classes in Wilkesboro to finish their second year.
Robinson thinks the program will be easier for students to understand over the long-term, but said right now everyone has questions.
“Right now, there’s some initial confusion,” said Robinson. “Some of the students may have had older siblings that took advantage of the old dual-enrollment system, and that probably add a little confusion to the mix.”
The new program also requires students to be better prepared, said Robinson.
“They have to be college ready for the transfer program in reading, English, and math,” said Robinson.
Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA in their high school classes, and must demonstrate college readiness on the SAT, ACT, PSAT, PLAN, or through WCC’s Accuplacer placement test.
Students must show college readiness on one test instrument and cannot mix and match scores from different tests allowed under the old system. Once enrolled, students must maintain a 2.0 GPA in their college courses to stay in the program.
Entry requirements for technical courses are the same with one exception. A high school principal or designee may give their permission for a student who falls below the 3.0 GPA cutoff to attend technical classes.
Robinson said students in technical programs are more likely to be focused on preparation for a specific career.
“In those cases, we would be trying to get folks job ready as expeditiously as possible,” said Robinson.
Robinson said he was excited about the collision repair program that starts this fall, as it gives students that chance to earn 16 hours of credit (of 64 needed to graduate from the program) in just two semesters.
The new system also no longer requires high school students to purchase their textbooks. Under the dual-enrollment plan, high school students were allowed to attend classes for free, but were required to buy their textbooks at a cost of hundreds of dollars per semester.
The new program allows ACHS students to rent their textbooks for just $40 per semester.
In addition to textbook rental, Robinson said the student’s parking, technology, and activity fees will also be included in the $40 price tag.
For now, the textbook rental option will only be available to high school juniors and seniors because they are not eligible for financial aid.
“Older students have the opportunity to apply for grants and scholarships, but high school students were shouldering the entire price of the textbooks before,” said Robinson.
Home-school students will also be able to take advantage of the new program, according to Robinson.
“This program is not just for public school students,” said Robinson. “Folks that are homeschooling, this is an opportunity for them as well. We’ve already seen several home-school students who have taken advantage of the program. They get the same fee structure that public school students get.”
It’s not too late to enroll in CCP courses for the coming year. “We’re trying to get as much wrapped us as we can by June 30, but we’ll work with students in July particularly in this transition year,” said Robinson.
For parents or students interested in Career and College Promise, contact Chris Robinson at the Ashe Campus of Wilkes Community College at 846-3900, Joallen Lowder or Jerry Baker at 846-2400.
“Either myself, or Joallen or Jerry, who work very closely with kids at the high school, will be able to answer most questions,” said Robinson.
For more information, check out the Wilkes Community College website at www.wilkescc.edu/careercollegepromise.