More students in the Carson City School District will have the opportunity to earn dual high school/college credits through the Jump Start College program at Western Nevada College. And parents are going to like the price.
CCSD has received more than $200,000 in state grant funding for the 2015-16 school year to assist seniors in earning college credits and completing remedial English and math education before graduation. Funding was authorized through Senate Bill 515 and determined by the Nevada Department to support College and Career Readiness programs.
WNC launched Jump Start College last year, engaging five Northern Nevada school districts in affording students the opportunity to earn college and high school class credits simultaneously.
“We are delighted to have academically qualified and socially mature students from Carson High School join students from 13 other area high schools in the opportunity to earn an Associate of Arts degree at the same time that they earn their high school diploma,” said WNC Dean of Student Services John Kinkella.
The grant funding will enable CCSD to pay 100 percent of students’ tuition costs and fees, following a pilot year in which 66 percent of those costs were covered. Students who pass Jump Start courses this fall will be reimbursed for those costs. CCSD anticipates the elimination of costs, including book fees, will encourage more low-income and first-generation college students to enroll in Jump Start College.
“These types of opportunities support our governor’s goals of the Nevada Ready initiative to support all of the business and industry coming here and keeping our kids in Nevada,” said Susan Keema, assistant superintendent for CCSD.
Beginning in the fall of 2014, 23 Carson High seniors participated in WNC’s Jump Start College pilot program, and it’s worth noting those students had a 100 percent pass rate in their classes. That initial success with college academics confirms these students should proceed with their higher education, Keema said.
“I’ve seen with the students I’ve interviewed and talked with or listened to from panels, and even students from other districts, how in the beginning it’s a growth period for them because there are different business rules on how the classroom operates at the college level,” Keema said. “They have to grow up a little and adjust, but what I’ve also seen the students at the end and how proud they are of themselves that they were able to do it. They now know that they can go to college and be successful.”
Sixty-one students are expected to partake in the second year of the program, according to Valerie Dockery, CCSD’s director of grants and special projects. They will earn credits in mathematics, English, philosophy and communications classes. Some of the Jump Start students will work toward Career and Technical Education credits and certifications, while more than half of the students will take remedial English and math course so they will be prepared for college-level classes in these subjects after graduation.
“Parents really want options for their children. They don’t want it to be X and Y,” Dockery said. “Because every child is different and every child needs something different, this is just part of that menu of options that will ensure that kids are successful when they are done.
“We want an opportunity for kids to get a two-year degree if they want to or, if they just want to take six or three college credits.”
Keema said CCSD would like to increase the number of Carson seniors involved in the Jump Start College by 30 percent for the current school year and expand the program to include juniors next year.
Parents learn more about the Jump Start College during informational meetings presented by counselors representing each grade level. In January, students who earn a C or above in their Algebra II class will take an Accuplacer test and those scoring high enough will be placed on the Jump Start College eligible list. CCSD then sends a letter to those qualifying students, inviting the parents to an information night. They are also placed on an email list to keep them updated on the process from that point on.
“There is plenty of time to talk to families of students who are interested,” Keema said. “I think we are going to use student panels to talk to other students about Jump Start.”
Communication with the student is the key before finalizing admission into Jump Start.
“The college has done a really good job with the parent-child interviews before they even sign up. They sit down and really talk to make sure they understand what is involved,” Dockery said. “Then there’s support for those kids once they get into the program, which is great.”
Jump Start College students receive the academic support and networking that leads to successful completion of courses. Teaching assistants attend each of the classes with the students and provide supplemental instruction and mentoring. For Latino students, WNC Latino Outreach Coordinator Lupe Ramirez provides the support network to assist these students with all aspects of their college experience.
For the 2016 fiscal year, Nevada school districts received a total of $3 million for dual credit and STEM education. That amount will increase to $5 million in 2017.
“We got a chunk that was appropriate for our-size school district and what we want to do,” Dockery said of the $217,000 awarded to CCSD.
In the future, Keema wants teachers at Carson High School to provide instruction for the Jump Start courses. And Dockery said there will be an effort to recruit more students for the second semester.
Future CCSD juniors will have an opportunity to earn a college degree before they graduate from high school. WNC’s Jump Start College pilot high schools from Churchill County, Lyon County and Storey County school districts will celebrate a first for their schools when students graduate from WNC with their Associate of Arts degrees on a Monday, then graduate with their high school diplomas later that week.