JAMESTOWN - Since 1998, Jamestown Community College has been offering concurrent enrollment courses to qualified high school juniors and seniors through the College Connections program.
These courses, offered during the high school day by JCC approved high school teachers, allow students to earn both high school and college credit. In recent years, the program has grown to include more than 1,500 students each year.
Current College Connections partners include districts in four New York counties and one school in Pennsylvania. New York partners include Brocton, Cassadaga Valley, Chautauqua Lake, Clymer, Dunkirk, Falconer, Forestville, Fredonia, Frewsburg, Jamestown, Maple Grove, Panama, Pine Valley, Sherman, Silver Creek, Southwestern and Westfield in Chautauqua County.
On average, students enrolled in the program earn just over 17 college credits per year. Most students begin college work during their junior year and have accumulated between 15 and 30 credits - the equivalent of an entire college semester or year - before high school graduation. For students residing within New York, the program is offered tuition-free. By offering College Connections courses, some districts have saved their students over one million dollars in tuition costs - a significant savings for students and families financing higher education.
The program includes coursework in 24 different disciplines - everything from art and computer science to psychology and welding. In many partner high schools, students may choose from several courses each semester. Although these courses are embedded in existing high school courses, there is much work to be done in meeting the college's expectations.
The high school instructor must find a way to incorporate the college course requirements into the existing high school course.
"JCC insists that the same textbooks, course outline, and critical course assessments be used," College Connections director Maria Kindberg said. "We must ensure that our on- and off-campus course sections are consistent in scope and rigor."
These standards are imposed not only by JCC, but by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, the U.S. accrediting agency for concurrent enrollment programs such as College Connections. When College Connections became accredited in 2009, it was one of only 46 programs to have received that distinction in the nation.
NACEP examines 17 different standards in the areas of curriculum, faculty, students, assessment and evaluation.
Feedback gathered from program students is also positive. Each year, the program surveys recent high school graduates to assess both their thoughts on the program and the ease with which their JCC credits transferred to other institutions. In 2012 surveys indicated that, of the 149 respondents, 120 attempted to transfer their credits to another institution. Of those 120, less than 1 percent indicated their JCC credits would not be applied to their degree programs.
"JCC enjoys high transferability rates," JCC vice president and dean of academic affairs Marilyn Zagora said. "Our College Connections students transfer thousands of JCC credits to other institutions each year. Fortunately, a healthy percentage of them decide to continue their education right here at JCC before transferring to a four-year institution."
Kindberg stressed the program wouldn't thrive without the dedication of the 174 high school teachers currently offering JCC courses.
College Connections program details can be obtained by calling Kindberg at 338-1143 or 1-800-388-8557.