This week, the State Board of Education approved a new policy aimed at boosting opportunities for high school students to enroll and succeed in community college courses under the state’s decade-old Career and College Promise program.
“This is a great first step for our state and will open up so many doors for students who decide that college is not the right step for them after college,” said Macon County Board of Education Vice-Chair Carol Arnold. “For too long the rhetoric has been that after high school you students should go to college — but that mindset has changed, and rightfully so. Our local workforce needs these workers and our students need to know that they are supported at the next stage of their lives — whatever that may be. It is our job to ensure they have every tool available to prepare them for those next steps.”
The program has allowed high school students who meet certain academic criteria to also take courses at their local community college to earn transferrable college credit or to take courses leading to a career-focused certificate or diploma. A study from the SERVE Center at UNC Greensboro issued this summer highlighted the need to build awareness around CCP, as it found uneven participation in the program, particularly among minority groups.
The new policy enacts a key recommendation of the study for strong and clearly defined partnerships between school districts and their community college partners to strengthen both access to and success in college courses for high school students. Such agreements, or memoranda of understanding, which are in place in a few districts and community colleges and for all Cooperative Innovative High Schools or early colleges.
Through this partnership, high schools will intentionally integrate CCP program offerings as it aligns to regional, economic, and community needs and provide specifics on how these offerings will be communicated to students, schools, and parents.
“This is a great move for North Carolina and I am excited to see how it excels our existing partnerships with the community colleges in Western North Carolina,” said North Carolina Senator Kevin Corbin.
Among the topics to be considered in the CCP Partnership agreements:
Establishment of partnership protocols, including regular communication
Integration of district and college program offerings
Plan of communication to students and families to broaden access
Student academic support systems, including advising and sharing student progress
Responsibilities of school/district and college personnel
Responsibilities for program expenses
Responsibilities of site operations, including use of facilities and transportation
Sneha Shah Coltrane, director of Advanced Learning and Gifted Education for the Department of Public Instruction, told the board that while participation in Career and College Promise has increased gradually, but steadily, and remains a great opportunity for students and families, implementation has been uneven.
“A strong, high-quality partnership between secondary and postsecondary education institutions is a necessity,” Shah Coltrane said. “Well-articulated partnerships between secondary and postsecondary education institutions are critical to support mindsets, policies, and practices that expand access to career and post-secondary pathways and ensure student success.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt echoed the importance of strengthening this partnership as Career and College Promise aligns with her workforce priorities the agency unveiled in January, aimed at ensuring students are well-prepared to compete for high-wage, high-demand careers.
“When I deemed 2022 as the Year of the Workforce, I wanted to ensure that North Carolina public schools continued to open doors, identify opportunities, and create partnerships for students to learn about postsecondary pathways,” said Truitt. “This policy is an important way we can do that, as it can lead to more students engaging in higher education coursework while helping them make informed plans and decisions about their future education and career pathways. With more jobs than ever before requiring post-secondary education and durable skills, I’m excited to see how this partnership assists more students in preparing for life after graduation.”
To learn more about North Carolina’s Career and College Promise Program, click here.