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Why Community College and K-12 Partnerships Are Important

By Reyna Gobel

SUNY Adirondack is working with local K-12 schools to better prepare students for college.

Complex things like education don’t happen in a vacuum.

So, when Kristine Duffy, president of State University of New York (SUNY) Adirondack, sees a large percentage of students arrive at her community college needing developmental education, she knows she needs to advocate for increased funding for New York’s K-12 public schools and find ways for her college to help high school students become college ready.

Duffy took time from her busy schedule to tell us how SUNY Adirondack is working with local high schools to help prepare students for college-level work.

What types of K-12 programs are underfunded?

We’re seeing fewer schools teaching beyond the core. Electives and extracurricular programs are getting cut to the point where a valedictorian at one high school has four study hall [periods]. He has nothing left to take that challenges him. Students often have only a small selection of AP and college-level courses available to them.

Even business and technology courses are getting taken away from public schools. One of the surprising facts we’ve uncovered is students can be great at posting on Facebook and Instagram and still not know how to use Word or Excel. Technology courses are still needed.

What will additional funding do for students?

What we’ve seen at SUNY Adirondack is that when students don’t have access to at least one college-level course, they are less likely to do well in the next step of their education. However, the academic exposure students need to be ready for college also includes being able to take electives or go on field trips that may spark an interest in a profession.

For instance, many schools don’t have the budget to take students on a field trip to a local hospital where they can learn about other professions available to them in the medical field beyond doctors and nurses. With minimal additional funding, students could go on field trips. With more funding, they can take classes that can prepare them for a wide range of career fields. They’ll not just be more college ready from these experiences, but be ready to pick a major and complete degrees.

Students from middle-class families can arrange for their teens to take a course on our campus or can take them to different work environments. However, families with lower incomes have fewer options due to financial limitations. The only segment of the population that saw a decline in the number of bachelor’s degrees received between 1970 and 2012 was families earning $30,000 or less.

How can colleges and K-12 schools work together to offset some of these funding challenges? 

First, it doesn’t take much funding for high schools to use ACCUPLACER [a suite of tests that assess reading, writing, math and computer skills] to determine how ready their students are for college coursework. We’ve piloted a program with five local high schools to provide them with placement tests. Some schools are developing a survey course with our help, such as one that can help students catch up on the knowledge needed to enter straight into college-level work post-high school graduation.

Working in enrollment and student affairs at community colleges for most of my career, I’ve seen why students come to college and why they stay. Students want to go to college, but we’ve got to give them the foundation in knowledge and career exposure to complete their educations and become part of the 21st-century workforce.

How is your community college working with local K-12 schools to ensure students are college ready? Tell us in the Comments.

Reyna Gobel

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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