Want to know how you can save thousands on your education? Learn more about CCV’s Introduction to College and Careers, dual enrollment, and Early College programs. Animation by Josh Larkin.
Kelly Blue earned her associate degree in accounting from CCV six years ago. Now her son Patrick, a senior at Windsor High School, is taking his second dual enrollment class through CCV—meaning he’s earning college credits free of charge. He’s even taking a class with one of the same teachers she had as a CCV student. Blue says she’s glad her son is being exposed to the real-life experience of college. He’s learning how to take initiative, how to manage his time and workload, and to think hard about finances. And earning college credits tuition free isn’t a bad place to start. “That’s a big advantage,” says Blue. “I think it’s fantastic.”
CCV believes that early introduction to college and career planning gives students the tools they need to be successful beyond high school. That’s why the College offers a full continuum of programs for Vermont middle and high school students at schools throughout the state. These offer a unique opportunity to try college and college-level learning, for free. Students gain classroom skills and knowledge in new subject areas, and they also gain insight into their own interests and goals. Director of Secondary Education Initiatives Natalie Searle says when it comes to their exposure to college, students have a variety of options—all of which have a real impact. “From a short college visit, to a semester-long course, to an entire year in Early College, these experiences can shift student perceptions about themselves, help build self-efficacy, and broaden their vision for the future.”
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This week, CCV Now will feature the stories of students who’ve completed ICS, dual enrollment courses, and Early College.
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CCV’s program continuum starts early, with 6th, 7th and 8th grades. With donor support, CCV centers around the state host Access Days several times each fall and spring semester. Students are welcomed into classrooms and learning centers to get a taste of the college environment, participate in classes, meet instructors and staff, and hear from current CCV students about their experiences. Last year, over 800 middle school students participated in Access Days, and demand for the program is growing.
CCV’s Introduction to College and Careers class, developed with generous funding from the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation’s (VSAC) GEAR UP program and the J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation, helps students begin thinking about post-high school options. ICC began as Introduction to College Studies (ICS), but was modified to its current format in order to include an emphasis on career preparation. The non-credit course is offered at all of CCV’s academic centers and some Vermont high schools. Students gain valuable skills such as time management, financial planning, test-taking strategies, goal setting and problem solving, and students who complete ICC are 17% more likely to continue on to some form of postsecondary education or training. Allison Witherspoon is Director of Guidance at Richford Jr-Sr High School and is an ICC instructor. She says the class provides an opportunity for students to access crucial information about themselves. “I often find that kids start thinking about college exploration and career exploration late in the game, and if they can engage in it early on, I think that they will be more successful and will make more informed decisions about their future.”
For juniors and seniors, CCV offers the state-funded Dual Enrollment and Early College programs, which are supported by Act 77’s Flexible Pathways Initiative. These programs provide access to college for many students who might not otherwise have it. Since 2014, more than 1,700 students who were the first in their families to go to college have used dual enrollment vouchers to take classes at CCV. These vouchers allow students in 11th and 12th grades to take up to two credit-bearing college courses for free. Witherspoon says that these classes are the perfect opportunity for students to explore college-level coursework. “Because of the vouchers, it’s a low-risk way for students to get their feet wet…I wish these opportunities had been available when I was in high school,” she said. Dual enrollment credits count toward both high school and college, giving students the option to earn up to eight college credits before even leaving high school.
ICC and dual enrollment are designed to function as on-ramps to Early College, another state-funded program for high school seniors. Through Early College, students can complete their first year of college while still in high school, at no cost. Credits count toward both high school graduation and college, and students have the option to stay involved with sports and other extracurricular activities at their high schools. For many students, this provides just the right balance between comfort and challenge, allowing them to expand their horizons, explore new skills and interests, and gain the confidence they need to be successful in college and careers.
Searle says the benefits of CCV’s secondary education programs can’t be overstated. “The learning, self-confidence, and connections that are offered are invaluable, and the earned college credits and cost savings can support students’ future education and career path well beyond high school.”