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 Bolivar-Richburg, Cuba-Rushford and Scio in Allegany County; Allegany-Limestone, Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Ellicottville, Gowanda, Olean, Pioneer, Portville and Randolph in Cattaraugus County; 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; Springville in Erie County; and Corry in Erie County, Pa.
On average, students enrolled in the program earn just over seven 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 more than $1 million 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 process is a thorough one," said Maria Kindberg, College Connections director. "When a high school instructor applies to the program, we must first assure that he or she meets the educational requirements for all on-campus instructors. Next, the candidate is paired with a faculty liaison, a JCC employee who oversees courses in that discipline. The liaison will conduct an interview and may choose to complete a classroom observation. Then, if the candidate is deemed a good fit for the program, the process of implementing the course can begin."
College Connections Fast Facts - 2012
Number of students served: 1,610
Average number of credits earned: 7.3
Number of course registrations: 3,735
Number of course sections offered: 288
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," said Kindberg. "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.
"As we moved through an exhaustive program review, we realized that our program already met the majority of NACEP standards," said Roz Newton, JCC's assistant dean of arts, humanities and health sciences. "We made modifications where necessary and were confident that College Connections was of the highest quality."
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 that their JCC credits would not be applied to their degree programs.
"JCC enjoys high transferability rates," said Marilyn Zagora, JCC's vice president and dean of academic affairs. "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."
Student comments speak to the program's benefit. "This program definitely prepared me for college, and saved me a lot of money. It was also an easier transition into college," said a recent Westfield Academy and Central School graduate.
"We're always delighted by the feedback we receive from program students who transition to full-time college work prepared and confident," Kindberg stated.
She stressed, though, that the program wouldn't thrive without the dedication of the 174 high school teachers currently offering JCC courses.
"Our program teachers really bridge the high school college gap for their students. They agree to meet every program requirement, they attend professional development sessions on campus and they meet regularly with their liaisons. And they do all of this without additional compensation. They are intrinsically motivated, and their students reap the rewards."
College Connections program details can be obtained by calling Kindberg at 338-1143 or 1-800-388-8557.