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Recruit high school students where they are…

I recently read an article about the nationwide increase the number of students dropping out of high school. Education experts attribute that to COVID-19. In Michigan, the story was a little different in 2020. Michigan’s K-12 drop-out rate actually declined slightly.That’s great news, but nearly 8% of Michigan’s high school students dropped out. According to the State, students who enrolled in college classes while still in secondary school had a graduation rate of about 97%. While these students often took 5 or 6 years to complete their educations, most completed their high school diploma. (Michigan’s 4-year high school graduation rate is about 82% and has increased each year since 2015-16.)

Yesterday, I wrote about options for offering free community college tuition without state- or federally funded programs. Dual enrollment for students in high school is another way to offer “free community college” tuition. And statistically, it vastly increases the chance that the student will complete their 12th grade year.

Another way to promote the successful transfer of students from high school to community college classrooms is to provide advisors in the high schools. Central Carolina Community College, in Sanford, NC takes this approach. The college stations full-time academic advisors in nine local high schools to help students plan for life after graduation. Currently, a grant funds the counselors.

Recruit high school students and they’ll come

Monterey County, CA college and high school educators worked together to develop a transitional math course for 12th grade students there. The course helped students develop college-level math skills while still in high school. Educators developed the course after seeing that inadequate high school math instruction prevented many students from succeeding in college math.

Clemson University hosts a summer program every year for high schoolers, starting in their sophomore years. By bringing students to campus, the University hopes to establish a “college-bound mindset” among the program participants. The idea is to let students see themselves on campus and begin to make plans to enroll somewhere following high school graduation.

None of these approaches/interventions require large, up-front investments, but they do pay big dividends for both the students and the higher education institutions. Funding these approaches are arguably among the best ways to get students into the community college classroom. This is where and how our community college should be investing our resources in our community.

Instead, we have a community college administration that is dead set on building hotels and retail stores in the college parking lots, and a Board of Trustees that’s just fine with that. Is it any wonder that enrollment is declining?

Photo Credit: Savannah River Site , via Flickr