Moving forward on college, career readiness

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

Dual enrollment programs are growing, but challenges still exist.

Partnerships between K-12 school districts and community colleges are not new. But some partnerships are getting more creative in order to increase student success and meet their region’s workforce needs.

Last November, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and AASA, the School Superintendents Association, convened a fourth meeting of K-12 and community college leaders. They discussed ways to create a seamless K–14 system that benefits students, parents, employers and the community at large. The highlights from that discussion are now available in this report.

One thing made clear in the discussion: Dual enrollment programs are gaining popularity, and they come with benefits and challenges.

In Alabama, Snead State Community College and the Marshall County Schools are partnering on a program that not only offers high school students a chance to earn college credits, but also gives them college navigation skills and reduces the need for developmental education. A combination of public and private funding helps turn high school partnerships into college enrollments. During the day, participating high schools teachers teach dual enrollment courses. At night, they provide college courses for working adults and displaced workers using a local workforce development grant.

There have been barriers to the program’s success, such as difficulty with coordination between the program administrators and ensuring teachers are adequately prepared to teach college courses. Lack of a coherent state policy on dual enrollment has also been an issue.

The Wallace State Community College Early College dual enrollment program has been boosting high school and college completion and responding to changing industry demands for 10 years. Wallace State partners with Cullman County Schools on this fast-track program that emphasizes college and workforce readiness.

High school students can earn an industry certification or associate degree and are provided with paid internships. This is thanks to partnerships with several large local manufacturing employers in the area. Students also are assigned a career coach and learn the importance of soft skills.

The biggest barrier to this program’s success? Lack of state funding.

Those attending the AACC/AASA meeting offered ways to advance college readiness and success, including sending the right messenger to different audiences. For example, while high school students may want to hear from college freshmen, the students’ parents may be more interested in hearing from business leaders. Another big takeaway: Recognize that success takes trust and willingness.

How is your college working to increase college readiness and success? Sound off at LinkedIn.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.