By Justin Dawes
An agreement between GRCC and Wyoming Public Schools will allow high school students to obtain a diploma and an Associate’s degree simultaneously.
Daniel Clark, Dean of the Lakeshore Campus and Academic Outreach, who has been GRCC’s representative through this whole process, called the program a “middle college.”
“Middle college means that a student in high school has the option to complete their high school programs and take college courses that will lead to a certificate or degree,” Clark said
Wyoming Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Reeder, who has worked with Carter in creating the program, explained that “middle college” will allow students to obtain the degree by beginning college courses in their sophomore years and extending their high school careers to five years.
However, there is some controversy as to whether the program is a good idea. Professor Jerry Casari is one who expressed his concern about the academic validity of the program. Though Casari supports the institution of GRCC and its intentions, he fears that students’ “only goal is to hang a degree next to their names.”
The program pushes “students to mature beyond their years,” Casari said.
Another professor voicing concerns is Dennis Sutton, who is “worried that the goal is a piece of paper, not an education.”
In response to this idea, Clark explained that programs like this have been around since the 1980s. “We’ve just never been engaged in them,” he said.
According to Clark, students must meet the following requirements to be eligible for the program:
• A GPA of 2.5
• Number of credits are at grade level
• Exemplary attendance
•Achieve the Accuplacer test score necessary to begin GRCC’s general education courses
Reeder added that students would also need to have reading and math skills at grade level.
“If a student scores lower than the cut rates, they will not be eligible for the program,” Clark said.
He says that the purpose of the program is to find students who are prepared to handle this kind of coursework.
“We’re looking for students who are mature and academically prepared,” Clark said. “And I would argue that there are a lot of high school students who meet those criteria.”
He believes that for the students eligible, the program could be very beneficial.
“I believe the ‘middle college’ program really engages both the secondary school system and the community college in a way that reforms the way education is done,” Clark said.
Dr. Reeder also believes the program could be helpful to certain students.
“Students could be first generation college students, and this will help ease them into it,” Reeder said.
These college courses will be available to the high school students at no cost.
“The expense will be paid through the state foundation allowance,” Reeder said. This is the money given annually to the school by the state for funding.
“I’m happy that students will be able to have their college tuition paid for,” Clark said. “It’s a cost that parents and students don’t have to pay for.”
Superintendant Reeder does say that students will start the sophomore year with two college classes, and as the high school career goes on, the number of classes and their rigor will grow.
But Casari question as to whether the Associate’s degree will be valid. He fears that the degree complete in high school will be watered down, and there is a “failure to recognize the natural evolution of students’ ability to perform at a collegiate level.”
But Reeder believes that if they ease the students into the college courses, it could be a success.
“We’ll start small with the idea that this will be a great opportunity for students, and if we get it right, it could be an opportunity for other schools as well,” Reeder said.
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