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CCV Touts Dual Enrollment To Get More Vermont High School Graduates To College

Community College of Vermont
Students celebrate at the 2012 Community College of Vermont graduation.

First, the good news: Vermont has one of the best high school graduation rates in the country. The bad news? The Green Mountain state also has a relatively low rate of college attendance. 

Only half the high school students who graduated between 2009 and 2013 even enrolled in college within a year of graduation.

That’s part of the reason that Community College of Vermont is encouraging more high schoolers to take advantage of free college-level classes paid for by the state.  A 2013 law sets aside state education fund dollars to pay for high school juniors and seniors to take up to two college courses for free at 20 colleges across Vermont. 

The CCV programs offered are designed to reach high school students at a time when they're ready to make decisions about their academic futures.

“Research shows that if you can help students understand the value and become engaged in college earlier in their life, they will continue on and pursue a college education,” says Joyce Judy, the president of Community College of Vermont.

Judy says the most popular option for students is dual enrollment courses, where students can take a CCV class and get both high school and college credit. Last year there were 1,000 students who enrolled in dual enrollment programs at CCV, and 400 students are enrolled this semester.

Judy mentioned the daughter of a single mother who was able to take a full year’s worth of college credits during high school.

“[She] really wanted her daughter to go on to college, but knew she couldn't afford to go,” says Judy. “She's from a small town, a very small high school. She found a way to make sure her daughter took introduction to college studies, then as a junior she took two dual enrollment courses, and then last year she took early college.”

The family saved $20,000 to $30,000, says Judy, without having to pay for tuition and room and board because she saved one whole year. The daughter started this fall at Castleton as a sophomore.

Staying engaged

Despite busy schedules and extracurricular activities, Judy says many students carry light course loads their senior year. She says a dual enrollment can help keep them engaged.  

That’s particularly important for students who don’t imagine themselves going to college, says Judy.

"How do we help them understand that they could go to college, they could afford to go to college, they can do it academically?” says Judy.   

Of the 7,000 students who are graduating every year from Vermont high schools, only about half of them are going on to college.

“That's 3,500 that are opting not to. And if you talk to Vermont employers, there are lots of very good jobs and Vermont. I want those jobs to go to Vermonters.”

Getting there, literally

Even with free courses, students need to be able to get to and from campus.

“Transportation is critical. Some schools run buses because they want their students to opt in to dual enrollment. We have gotten philanthropic support. We have paid school districts to supply buses to help with transportation,” says Judy.

“We will do anything we can to break down the barriers to help students be able to access dual enrollment.”

Judy says students can also apply to VSAC to get support for extra costs while they're taking a dual enrollment course, such as books and other materials.

Why is college enrollment so low in Vermont?

Judy says even when taking into account that more students may be electing for a gap year after high school, Vermont’s college enrollment stats are still quite low.

Judy points out that 45- to 65-year-olds in Vermont have much more education than the 25- to 45-year-olds, evidence the trend is continuing. 

“My focus is that people have to recognize that they have to continue to learn beyond high school,” says Judy.

“A college education doesn't guarantee you a job, but it sure does open up a lot of opportunities.”

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Kathleen Masterson as VPR's New England News Collaborative reporter. She covered energy, environment, infrastructure and labor issues for VPR and the collaborative. Kathleen came to Vermont having worked as a producer for NPR’s science desk and as a beat reporter covering agriculture and the environment.
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