​Why One College is Going Back to High School to Help Students Succeed

Student Success

​Why One College is Going Back to High School to Help Students Succeed

By Sydney Johnson     Apr 27, 2017

​Why One College is Going Back to High School to Help Students Succeed

This article is part of the collection: Crossing the Finish Line: Stories on Student Success and What Colleges Are Doing to Get There.

Among the student groups, department reps and tables selling snow cones at Zane State College’s Springfest event earlier this month were fresh faces less accustomed to the rush of activity on campus. Twenty-seven students from nearby Zanesville High School had arrived to get a taste of what the higher education experience might be like.

“I got a photo with the mascot and also met the provost,” says Alexis Stallworth, a junior at Zanesville High School, which is about 50 miles east of Columbus in Ohio. “It got me excited to go to college.”

Also at the event were a new crop of advisors aiming to help both college students and these high schoolers succeed. It's an effort steered by Jennifer King, an academic advisor at Zane State College who recently began splitting her workweek across the high school and college campuses to help get more local high school students, especially minority and first generation students, enrolled in the college.

Bridging campuses

King started working at the high school last October under a grant project the college set up around integrated planning and advising for student success – better known as iPASS. With the funding support, the school shifted King’s role from what she describes as a “general academic advisor” to a new position: student success transition advisor.

Under her new title, King is working to build a new pilot program that bridges Zane State College and Zanesville High. The program, launching this fall, will offer those students (who were nominated by faculty and had to apply) two semesters of specialized college-prep and advising. Upon acceptance into the pilot, the high school students will also be guaranteed admission to Zane State for the 2018 summer and fall semester.

Officials say the purpose of the program is to expand “student success” for students who need an extra boost getting into college. According to Zane State’s Provost and Chief Academic Officer Richard Woodfield, that can mean students who have not taken AP courses, have lower ACT scores or Accuplacer scores, or otherwise have shown interest in college but lack some preparation efforts.

“Our focus was on students who had fallen through the cracks somewhat and did not have a clear path in place after graduating from high school,” he says.

A need for new solutions

Stallworth applied to the program after being selected as a promising candidate by her teachers. Her grandmother encouraged her to participate, but that enthusiasm is not always shared across the community, according to Woodfield.

“We are in a rural area of the state. Here, we have issues where families are not supportive of higher education,” he says. “How do we build relationships with high school students and their parents to focus on job availability regionally, not cause a disruption in the family and delicately provide avenues out of cyclical poverty?”

An additional challenge the college faces is diversity. Zane State’s minority population makes up only 9 percent of the college’s enrolled students—lower than the 14 percent at Zanesville City schools.

By starting their initiatives with students who might not otherwise make it to their campus, Woodfield hopes attitudes and demographics will soon shift.

“One way we saw to engage with these populations was to reach out at high school,” he says. “We sought to move our target student population into a college-ready status, as well as enroll them in dual-credit opportunities that would become the catalyst for ongoing post-secondary credentials following high school graduation.”

On-campus and on-track

In their first semester with the program, students will take their required high school courses along with a “college strategies” course, which will be co-led by King and a teacher from the high school. The course is designed to show students how to research colleges and understand applications. It will also cover college study skills and involve regular trips to the college with King to get familiar with campus support services like financial aid offices, career and employment resources, and professional counseling.

In their second semester, the students will become part-time college students, enrolling in up to three dual-credit Zane State courses—math and English, plus a third course relevant to their study of interest—that they will take for free on the college campus.

“Those courses will apply to many pathways they could choose,” King explains, noting that the courses are transferable to any public higher ed institution in Ohio.

Throughout their coursework, the students will have access to all of the college’s student services, including 24-7 online tutoring and one-on-one access to advisors including King. They will also have logistical supports, including organized transportation to the college from the high school.

Carving out courses and pathways

The program will also focus on career exploration to get high school students planning their college and career pathways early. (That effort goes even further back than high school, though. Through two separate grant initiatives with Jobs for the Future, Zane State is also working with local middle schools to implement programs for students to explore STEM careers.)

The high school and college both already offer dual-enrollment courses, which largely cater towards students already on track for college. But In Woodfield’s experience, he says dual-enrollment programs without a plan attached has led to students “wasting” their dual-enrolled credit. “We are gobsmacked by the number of students who get dual-credit, and we are seeing more and more students not taking that earned credit and cashing it in for a degree,” he says.

That’s a problem because extra credits could affect students’ financial aid later on. If a high school student takes too many dual-enrollment courses that do not count to their degree, they may use up Pell Grant dollars needed to get them to graduation.

“We know that providing dual-enrollment without a plan and advising is damaging,” he says.

Going back, thinking ahead

“There is a purposeful nature to the advising work we are doing around iPASS, finding a path to a career and the high school redesign program,” Woodfield shares. “It is about getting past hurdles of academic preparation and being to enroll in college credit before they get there.”

That was the case for Stallworth, who will be participating in the two-semester program this fall.

“I didn’t start off with great grades this year, and I was freaking out because colleges see that,” she says. “But they have been getting better, and maybe colleges will see my growth and that I did try.”

The program made sense given financial barriers she also faces. “My sister wanted me to go to college and do the whole dorm experience, but that’s too expensive,” she says.

Now, Stallworth plans to attend Zane State, where she can commute from home until she’s ready to transfer to a four-year college to study computer engineering

Zane State’s outreach efforts this upcoming academic year will only extend to Zanesville High School, which is just a mile away from the college. But if things go according to plan, Woodfield says the college will be looking to expand its student success initiative to the other eight high schools in the region.

“We have a number of other schools around the perimeter that would benefit from this,” he says. “We are trying to break down their barriers, so college seems like the natural choice.”

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