Dual Enrollment Provides Students with Career Head Start

Posted By: Gretchen Schultz, Director of Workforce Development, Tooling U-SME on February 08, 2021

Odessa College logo

Back in October, community college presidents and school superintendents met virtually at a meeting organized by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and The School Superintendents Association (AASA) to discuss college and career readiness.

In the Community College Daily, Kent Phillippe, associate vice president of research and student success at AACC, noted “research shows huge increases in dual enrollment across the country since 2001, continuing to grow even during the pandemic.”

We are not surprised. Dual enrollment programs, which allow students to earn college credit while still in high school, provide benefits to both students and schools.

Additionally, at the conference, AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech noted that “dual enrollment has helped address equity at many school districts, allowing students who may have not even considered going to college to actually graduate from high school with college credits,” according to the article.

We work with community colleges, vocational schools and high schools on dual enrollment programs that are successfully preparing students for college coursework and expectations while acting as a valuable source of students into local post-secondary educational programs.

Record Enrollment at Odessa College

One of our educational partners, Odessa College (OC) in West Texas is an excellent example. The school has seen growth despite this year’s pandemic.

OC’s fall 2020 enrollment broke the 7,000 mark for the first time with 7,044 students registered for 2020 fall classes. OC had an enrollment increase for the 12th consecutive year.

Its dual enrollment program is part of that success. The dual credit program, started in 2012, is for high school students from freshman to senior level where they receive credits for both high school graduation and a college degree. Dual credit students could earn more than 40 hours of college credit by the time they graduate from high school.

“Students can earn a certificate offered by the college or even graduate with an associate degree,” said Muhammad Naqvi, Department Chair Industrial Technology, Odessa College, who is also a graduate of the school.

“At age 16 or 17, these students are well prepared to get ahead and will be very successful,” he said. “I wish they had dual credit when I was young.”

The college currently has relationships with five local high schools, with OC providing trade courses such as welding and machining. More than 200 students participate in the program.

“When other schools are going down in terms of enrollment, we are going upwards,” said Naqvi. “The Odessa College family works hard to serve the student community and do all we can to reach out to students and provide benefits.”

At OC, the benefits of dual enrollment for students include:

  • Seamless transition from high school to college
  • Greater likelihood of success in subsequent collegiate work
  • Greater likelihood of earning a high school diploma and a college degree
  • Reduced cost of enrolling in higher education courses

OC strives to make the dual credit program affordable to all. Students can take their first two dual credit classes at OC for free. Once students graduate and come to OC, they also get their first class free with discounts after that. Scholarships for up to $2,500 per student are also available.

Strict standards are in place to ensure consistency across the program. Naqvi and his team visit the high schools to get to know faculty and make sure equipment is up to date.

In 2019, OC moved from a curriculum with textbooks to Tooling U-SME’s competency-based, industry-driven online training which is used by all the high schools. This ensures curriculum standardization including for exams, midterms and assessments.

Pivoting Due to Pandemic

In the spring, due to the pandemic, all OC classes went online until the college started to transition students back to campus on June 1.

“Tooling U-SME kept us going during COVID-19,” said Naqvi. “We were doing all assignments through Tooling U-SME.”

Lab work was completed with social distancing guidelines once students returned to campus.

“You can’t do welding online,” said Naqvi. “Most welding schools didn’t know what to do but we were already set up with Tooling U-SME so we could educate remotely through the software until students could get back to the lab.”

Career Ready

Students who participate in the dual enrollment program graduate with career skills, and in many cases, a certification approving them for employment in the manufacturing field.

Naqvi said through dual enrollment students can earn a Level 1 Certificate as well as a Level 2 Advanced Certificate issued by the college. In addition, they can gain nationally recognized certifications from SME, API, and AWS.

OC has a strong advisory committee with a goal to ensure OC has the best advanced technology. In the lab and classroom, the team is committed to bringing the practical work world to students.

“We are providing basic technical knowledge and a strong foundation to ensure students are well rounded and meet industry workforce needs,” Naqvi said.

He stressed the importance of standardization for a successful program.

“It’s important to stay in touch with faculty to ensure they know what to teach and have the tools they need,” he said.

If you are looking to add or develop your dual enrollment program, we look forward to sharing case studies and best practices from schools like Odessa College who are successfully implementing programs to build the workforce and strengthen their own educational institutions.

Tags: "American Association of Community Colleges and AASA", API, AWS, "Community College Daily", COVID-19, "dual enrollment", manufacturing, "Muhammad Naqvi", "Odessa College", "online training", SME, "The Superintendents Association", "Tooling U-SME"