Better advising leads to improved student success

Extending the pathway

By Steve Fast

A dual enrollment program in an Illinois district goes beyond the associate degree.

Heartland Community College and its high school partners have found success with the HCC Degree NOW Computer Science Program. The first cohort of students is set to graduate in 2021 with a high school diploma and an associate of science degree.

Now, a third partner has been added to the mix to provide further opportunities.

HCC has reached an articulation agreement with Illinois State University (ISU) that will allow guaranteed admission for certain high school students graduating from the Degree NOW program. The agreement provides guaranteed admission to those meeting ISU’s general and computer science program admission criteria, allowing these students to jump straight into their junior year in college after high school graduation.

“This agreement is yet another example of the strong transfer relationship we have with Illinois State,” said Sarah Diel-Hunt, vice president of enrollment and student services. “The Degree NOW program is breaking new ground in helping our district’s high school students reach their academic goals by re-imagining the possibilities of dual credit programs. Even beyond this program with computer science, our district high schools are providing more opportunities for students to take college courses in high school and then bring those credits to Heartland.”

The Degree NOW program combines Heartland dual credit courses that students take in high school along with additional classes taken on the HCC campus. Students earn an associate degree over the four-year course of study that begins in the 9th Grade.

A key element in this agreement is that ISU will provide Degree NOW students a first-year college student experience even though they will be admitted to Illinois State as juniors academically. Students admitted to the program will be eligible for the typical privileges afforded to freshmen, such as housing.

“Our course credits transferred before this agreement, but now students and parents can feel better about the other aspects of graduating high school and going to college,” Diel-Hunt said. “These students will be afforded all the typical first-year college student services, programming and privileges even though they are juniors in their academic program of study.”

The college also has a Ready NOW program in partnership with K-12 to ensure students are college ready, particularly in the areas of math and English, and a College NOW program focused on getting more students on a guided path to successful college certificate and/or degree completion.

Steve Fast

is director of public information at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois.