Smoother transition to college urged for Michigan’s students

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Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan is making flexible college credit options a priority for high school students around the state.
College preparation is rising in importance among school districts and state government alike, as Gov. Rick Snyder emphasized in his State of the State Address.
Students’ transition from high school to college needs to be more efficient, Snyder said, “making it easy for them to get assistance, understanding of where that career counseling is, where those great tech opportunities are, how to do it faster, and better and less expensively.”

According to Brian Barber of the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Education Improvement and Innovation, the high school-to-college transition happens most successfully through programs like dual enrollment and “middle college” options.
These programs have seen huge growth in the last decade, with high schools and colleges throughout the state including more programs each year.
“Michigan is becoming a leader in trying to open up access to postsecondary options, and trying to create a seamless transition,” Barber said.
Michigan high schools have been required to provide college credit opportunities since 1996, and those opportunities have been growing. About 51,000 dual enrollment courses were available last year, compared with 14,000 such courses in 2001-02, Barber said. Students participating in those classes increased to more than 20,000 in the last school year.
Petoskey High School, for instance, offers “several advanced placement programs, dual enrollment options and an early college program to earn credits while still attending high school,” Principal Mandy Stewart said.
Up to ten dual-enrollment courses can be taken during a student’s high school years. Dual enrollment classes are college-level courses taken by students during high school. Paid by state aid, the courses give students a head start on college degrees and offer some insight into the structure and difficulty level of a college class.
“The thing that really blew the doors off was in July 2012; there was a major revision, allowing students grade nine and up to take these classes,” Barber said.
Before the 2012 revision of Michigan’s Postsecondary Enrollment Options Act, dual enrollment opportunities were only available to high school juniors and seniors.
Future of Education
In his State of the State speech, Snyder called for a smoother transition between high school and college and the development of “middle colleges,” which would create blended high school and associate degree programs.
Barber said middle colleges could offer specific degree options, such as health care, rather than the general credits offered by dual enrollment. Such a transformation could lead to reconceiving K-12 education as a preschool-20 program.
“To remain competitive, it’s what we have to do,” he said.
Petoskey schools employ a similar program, called North Central Now! Early College, where up to 25 students per year are able to choose among three associate degree paths. The first four years are a combination of high school and dual enrollment courses, with the fifth being exclusively at North Central college, with one high school course taken online. Students graduate the program with both a high school diploma and an associate degree.
Michigan leaders’ vision for transforming education will be more challenging in some places than others. St. Ignace Area Schools, for instance, are not close enough to a community college to take advantage of many dual enrollment opportunities. More online courses offered by local colleges could help students overcome this barrier, Principal Gregg Fettig of St. Ignace’s LaSalle High School said.
“I believe the exposure is great for students and will help achieve success,” Fettig said. “We do whatever we can with the resources we have available to help our students.”

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