High school students do well in college classes

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 28, 2019

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

SALISBURY — Emma Ryerson might be a senior at West Rowan High School, but she’s already earned 31 college credits.

Unlike advanced placement courses that give students the opportunity, but not the guarantee, of college credit, these are fully accredited college credits that transfer to universities.

Thanks to the Career & College Promise program and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Ryerson is earning college credit tuition free. The Career & College Promise program was established by the state and provides the opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to earn college credits tuition-free while still enrolled in high school.

Since 2016, enrollment in Career & College Promise courses in Rowan and Cabarrus counties has increased by 64 percent.

In addition to Career & College Promise, the college hosts three innovative early-college high schools that allow students to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree simultaneously.

The college and the school systems work together to support these three successful programs, the latest of which opened in the fall of 2016 at the college’s Cabarrus Business and Technology Center. This early college allows students to explore technical career paths such as information technology and engineering and will see its first graduating class in 2020.

“Through our partnership with Rowan-Cabarrus, Cabarrus County Schools’ students have the opportunity to participate in the Career & College Promise program. Our students are taking advantage of the many course offerings to get a jump start on college credits and credentials for their chosen careers,” said Cabarrus County Superintendent Chris Lowder.

“Additionally, the college also is an excellent partner for our two early college high school programs, which allow enrolled students to earn their high school diploma and an associate degree.”

Ryerson said Career & College Promise has given her a jump start on college.

“I have many years of school ahead of me to achieve my dream of becoming a veterinarian, and this program has allowed me to complete my first year in college while in high school — tuition-free,” Ryerson said.

While the program does cover tuition for the courses, the cost of books and fees may be included depending upon the local education agency. On average, students spend about $100 per class on books and fees. There are currently 1,226 current high school students in Rowan and Cabarrus counties taking advantage of the program who are enrolled in college courses at Rowan-Cabarrus.

There are two tracks for Career & College Promise. One allows students to specialize in a career or technical pathway, while the other allows students to prepare for general transfer.

In addition to general education college transfer classes, Rowan-Cabarrus offers options for students to get a head start in careers like health care, criminal justice, machining, cosmetology, IT, and welding. Qualified students can take classes through a state certified pathway, with some students taking as many as four college classes in a single semester.

Daniel Leonard, a 2018 graduate of Carson High School, took four CCP classes during his senior year and added two more the summer following graduation — all tuition free. He then enrolled at Rowan-Cabarrus, where he is studying HVAC technology and electrical engineering.

“With the money I saved taking CCP classes and the affordability of Rowan-Cabarrus courses, I will be ready to go right to work at a good job and owing little to nothing, when some students leave college owing a whole lot of money,” Leonard said. “I would tell any high school student to get involved in the CCP program, not only to save money, but to get a better idea what college is all about and to figure out what they want to do.”

“A strong partnership with all three local K-12 school systems is of the utmost importance to Rowan-Cabarrus,” said RCCC President Carol S. Spalding. “A benefit of this opportunity is getting to experience real college classes. Students are ultimately better prepared when they transfer because they’re confident in their ability to complete college-level work.”

Xochitl Nunez-Ariza, salutatorian of the 2018 class at North Rowan High School, completed her certified nursing assistant requirements while in high school from Rowan-Cabarrus through Career & College Promise. She is now working as a CNA while earning her bachelor of science in nursing at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“I saved myself a lot of money through the Career & College Promise program,” said Nunez-Ariza. “My best advice is to take advantage of the CCP program while it’s available to you, so you don’t pay out of pocket for something you can get for free.”

“These classes are game changers for our students. I am thrilled to support the Career & College Promise program, as well as continue the strong partnership we enjoy with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College,” said Superintendent Lynn Moody of Rowan-Salisbury Schools. “Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is doing a great job with high quality transfer education, as well as innovative workforce development and technical training.”

Another development over the last couple of years is the expansion of programs located on-site in high schools for career-technical education. These programs bring college faculty into local high schools to teach college courses. The programs include IT essentials, drafting, nurse’s aide, early childhood education, welding, and advertising and graphic design.

“Bringing these dynamic, hands-on classes directly to the schools is a win-win-win for the college, the schools and the students,” said Spalding.

The college and Rowan-Salisbury Schools also will launch a fire academy training program for high school seniors next fall.

“Many students are interested in becoming firefighters, and we are excited to partner with the college to help students get a head start on that career while they are still in high school,” said Moody.

“We look forward to seeing further expansion in the Career & College Promise program as more parents and students become aware of what very well may be the best kept secret to getting ahead while still in high school. The community should appreciate the work that is being done in the school systems to promote our goal of increasing educational attainment in our community,” said Spalding. “I also hope that students will continue to attract more and more young people to come directly to Rowan-Cabarrus out of high school to further their education.”

For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, visit www.rccc.edu or call 704-216-RCCC (7222).