ELYRIA — Lorain County Community College is fighting back against a low college graduation rate with an ambitious program.
Thursday, college officials announced an initiative, MyUniversity, that attempts to make it easier for area high school students to complete college-level classes at their high schools. High school students can earn an associate’s degree through the college. Upon high school graduation, those students can transition to LCCC’s University Partnership program and earn a bachelor’s degree, some by age 20.
Tracy Green, vice president of strategic and institutional development, said MyUniversity will launch for the 2014-15 school year at Lorain, Midview and Avon Lake high schools. The intent is to have MyUniversity programs in every school in the county, but logistically a three-school pilot seemed best.
It will not replace current options, but will bring the Early College concept — now just available on the LCCC campus for students at Elyria and Lorain high schools — to the high schools. The college will make the program available at no cost to districts and the classes will be free to students, Green said.
“Early College is limited to 100 students. This opens the door for more students while allowing students to have that high school experience,” she said.
“This program removes the traditional boundaries to college access and has the potential to significantly increase the number of Lorain County students with a degree that will help them compete in the global economy,” said LCCC President Roy Church.
MyUniversity is LCCC’s answer to several concerns in the community — cost of college and time it takes to earn a degree — as well as its own less than 10 percent graduation rate, a number college officials said is misleading because it does not take into account the uniqueness of the school’s student population. The figure does not include the graduation rates of transfer or part-time students who make up the majority of LCCC’s student base.
“For students who want more from their high school experience and know they are going to college, this is a big deal,” Church said. “These pathways we have laid out are exactly what our students need.”
Nya Washington, 15, of Avon, is one such student. She, along with more than two dozen other students, was introduced to the board of trustees before the announcement of MyUniversity as examples of how dual enrollment works. The students articulated the struggles of working within the confines of current programs, like Post Secondary Enrollment Options, Titan College and Early College.
“I wanted to graduate with an associate’s degree, but couldn’t enroll in Early College unless I was an Elyria or Lorain student, so I opened enrolled into Lorain,” Washington said. Moments earlier, she spoke of the college-level research she was involved in with gene mutations that could inhibit HIV infections.
“This is a better atmosphere for me,” she said.
Taking college courses while in high school is nothing new in Lorain County. But the process was not always easy for some students, even for the most driven teenagers. PSEO and Advanced Placement courses are available at all area high schools.
In addition, students at Elyria and Lorain high schools have Early College High School as an option.
“We have been piecemealing this process when a clear pathway was needed all along,” Church said. “We’ve already had everything in place, but it’s time we spelled it out for students.”
Jordyn Stoll, 18, will graduate from Vermilion High School in the coming weeks and will have two honors associate degrees through LCCC. The work was done by taking every PSEO class she could as well as summer courses at the college.
“Basically, I had to figure it all out on my own to get me to this point,” she said. “I knew who to talk to at LCCC and they were great, but there was no map that said ‘do this and do that’.”
Stoll will transfer her credits to Cleveland State University in the fall.
“I knew I wanted to go to college and I figured out how to do it for less money,” she said.
She estimates she has saved at least $20,000. Stoll said she also worked with LCCC Professor Kathy Durhan on research examining how Lake Erie emits greenhouse gases.
In March, the big news at LCCC was a tuition guarantee for students registering in fall 2014 and spring 2015. The guarantee holds tuition and fee rates for up to three years or until the completion of a degree, whichever comes first.
This second promise takes the college’s pledge to help more students obtain their degrees further.
High school educators called MyUniversity the missing piece of the puzzle for linking secondary and post-secondary education.
“We were one of the first districts to add PSEO in the high school more than 20 years ago, but still not enough of our kids had access to college,” said Lorain Superintendent Tom Tucker. “This opens up the option and lets kids try college in a way that let’s them know they can do it — just taking one class or more right at their high school. It gets them on the road to a degree, and that is what we need in this economy.”
- Students can earn an associate’s degree and high school diploma simultaneously, and have the flexibility to participate when they are ready
- Students can earn a bachelor’s degree by age 20
- MyUniversity can save students up to 80 percent of the cost of a bachelor’s degree
- Includes onsite and ongoing academic career advising
- Students get full high school experience and college experience
- The degree pathways are business administration, computer science and engineering, psychology, education, biology, accounting and IT-computer information systems
- MyUniversity is based on Titan College and the Early College High School program for Elyria and Lorain students