Traditional Early College Programs Target Academic Superstars, Shutting Out Hands-On Learners
Most dual enrollment courses span traditional academic disciplines such as calculus, English, and physics, often requiring high school students to demonstrate aptitude through placement exams or high GPAs. Although well-meaning attempts to ensure student preparedness, lofty prerequisites shut out middleperforming students who might thrive in applied degree programs community colleges offer. However, hands-on learners are unlikely to appreciate the variety of college offerings without early access to advanced coursework. Colleges that shut students out from dual enrollment courses deter them from considering postsecondary education as a viable option, losing a potential enrollment stream for the college and setting students on path towards low-skill work with few opportunities for advancement.
New Federal Dollars Available for Early Workforce Training Programs
Workforce projections estimate that in five years, the United States will lack millions of technically trained workers needed in industries like healthcare and STEM to meet employment demand. Seeing this impending shortfall, the federal government has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to build a robust workforce training model similar to apprenticeship programs in Europe. Renewed national attention on career and technical education presents a unique opportunity for community colleges to build accelerated pathways from college to career. Federal incentive programs favor partnerships across the P-16 divide, and offer even greater support for programs proposals that include employer partners.
CTE Dual Enrollment Courses Redefine “College Experience” for Technical Students
Students who fall short of traditional dual enrollment prerequisites find new opportunities for acceleration through open-access dual credit courses. Dual enrollment programs in career and technical education (CTE) disciplines such as welding or carpentry present a way to reach new student segments previously uninterested in college. Open-access CTE dual enrollment courses enable all high school students to appreciate the rigor of CTE coursework and its applications in the real world. Progressive colleges offering open-access CTE courses to high school students have seen interest in the college spike among technically minded high school students.
Career Academies Offer Accelerated Pathway to Industry-Recognized Credentials
To build on high school students’ burgeoning interest in career and technical education, colleges have begun to adapt the career academy model to build credential pathways in applied disciplines. Unlike previous models of high school-led career academies, college-led academies offer high school students accelerated paths towards attaining industry-recognized certifications. Leading institutions offer incentives at critical points along the career academy pathway to boost initial enrollment and encourage retention throughout the program, increasing the likelihood of credential attainment five-fold.
STEM Early College High Schools Blend College Preparation and Hands-On Industry Exposure
While career academies present an opportunity to earn a cluster of college credits, early college high schools allow students to go even further and earn an associate’s degree alongside their high school diploma. Most early college high schools, however, solely prepare students for general education degrees that are transferrable to four-year universities. Colleges engaging technically minded high school students have instead focused their early college high schools on STEM fields, and found higher rates of high school graduation and college enrollment among participants. While contextualized coursework keeps students engaged, leading colleges collaborate with industry sponsors to develop hands-on work experiences that teach students essential skills for success in the field.