By Anna Fletcher
Courier-Times Staff Writer
If you’re a high school student in Person County, imagine graduating with both a high school diploma and an associate degree from Piedmont Community College. Imagine being able to transfer to a four-year university as a junior or go directly into the workforce with a good job in your area of study. Now, imagine saving thousands of dollars while doing it.
Through PCC’s Career and College Promise, all of this is possible.
The program works in tangent with public, charter and private schools, as well as home-schools, in Person and Caswell counties to provide high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to get a head start on their higher education and professional futures.
Chose a path
Career and College Promise offers two pathways that high school students can choose to take.
The College Transfer Pathway allows students to choose an area of study such as biology or mathematics, which puts them on the path to an associate of science degree; or such as psychology or history, which puts them on the path to an associate of arts degree. In the fall of 2018, an associate in general education nursing and an associate in fine arts will be added to the program.
Students who complete the transfer pathway earn at least 30 semester hours of college courses in their chosen area of study and, upon graduation, walk away with both a high school diploma and the equivalent of one year of college. They can transfer those credits to a four-year college and enter as a sophomore, or continue at PCC to complete an associate degree, which will allow them to enter a four-year college or university as a junior.
The Career Technical Education Pathway allows students to choose a skilled occupation in a technical field, such as cosmetology, criminal justice, medical assistance or early childhood development. Students take the necessary courses to earn an associate of applied science, and are able to enter the work force immediately upon graduation.
Currently, there ARE 432 high school juniors and seniors in Person and Caswell counties taking a total of 842 college-level courses at PCC.
Beth Townsend, the director of public information and marketing at PCC, estimates that represents almost a quarter of the community college’s total student body.
PCC faculty in the Career and College Promise department emphasizes three benefits of the program.
First, it better prepares students for the next step after high school.
“It gives them experience in a college classroom and on a college campus,” Townsend said. “Whereas if you just stay at your high school in your own world there, you may not be experiencing what you might experience when you go away to your fouryear school.”
By getting students more familiar with college life, she says, the program helps make the transition less daunting.
“Education can be a scary thing,” Townsend said. “In our communities, there are so many families where these students would be first generation college students. So when you have folks who can talk them through the process, that’s a big part of that next step.”
The college experience and preparation also applies to technical pathway students, as Leia Rollins, the current Career and College Promise coordinator, points out.
“For technical students, they can go right into a job,” she said. “You’re getting job entry certification. Maybe you’re working toward your diploma. Plus, you’re getting handson experience. Not every student is amazing in the academia sense, but more hands-on – they learn better that way. It fits different learning styles for students as well.”
Second, the program is accessible to all types of students.
PHS runs buses back and forth during normal school hours, and, according to Walter Montgomery, the dean of PCC’s technical and occupational programs and former director of Career and College Promise, the program is considering stationing teachers at the schools who don’t provide transportation, such as RCS.
That decision will be made based on the amount of interest shown by students at those schools, he says.
Students also have a variety of ways to take the needed courses.
“Students can take classes after school, and the credit will transfer back to the high school as an elective credit,” said Katrina Madden, the postsecondary transition and career coach at PCC’s Caswell County campus. “And they can take courses during the summertime.”
They can also take online courses if there are schedule conflicts with their high school, Rollins adds.
Third, it cuts a significant chunk out of tuition cost and student loans.
“These programs are tuition-free to the students,” Montgomery said. “They may have to buy some books, but the state waives the tuition, and PCC waives all fees.”
High school students can get 30 college credits out of the way at no cost, and then pay only one year’s $2,548 tuition at PCC to achieve their associate degree. This cuts out two years of a nearby state university’s $15,000-20,000 annual tuition.
“If you want to take free classes while you’re in high school and get some of it out of the way, stay here and complete your associate,” Townsend said. “Then move on to a fouryear. You’ll save thousands and thousands of dollars.”
For more information about Career and College Promise, visit www.piedmontcc.edu/ccp, or contact Leia Rollins at the Person County campus at 336-322- 2273 or Katrina Madden at the Caswell County campus at 336-694-4212.