More students are cutting the cost of college by going to community college first – and getting the opportunity to do so in high school. Families are saving thousands of dollars for college and gaining an advantage for entry into 4-year college after high school.
I will be talking to Joanne Pugsley, the Career Development Coordinator at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, NC about an exciting opportunity available to high school students. This opportunity is something not commonly known and but available to high school students. North Carolina Junior and Senior high school students are able to take college classes and begin building their college transcript. Every high school in Charlotte has a liaison to assist students and families with the enrollment and registration process. Many states may offer this same opportunity. It is worth checking out in your state.
There are numerous benefits to getting college credits while in high school:
- It’s free
- Save one to two years of college tuition
- Gain entry into a selective college by transferring in as a sophomore or junior
- Show demonstrated interested in a field or major
- Demonstrate ability to do well in college level coursework
“Many colleges and universities are looking for students who have shown proven interest in their potential career fields.” – Joanne Pugsley
In This Episode You Will Learn
- what is the college and career promise program
- who is able to participate in the program
- how can parents and students find out more information about this program
- how to register for this program
- why this program is good for high school students
- how students can graduate high school and get a job making $40k per year
- how to be dual enrolled in high school and college classes
- the important distinction between enrolling in college and registering for classes
You can read a recent article that I wrote about the value of Community College:
Hired Graduate Podcast Transcript 2/13/17
Jason: Hi welcome to this episode of the hired graduate podcast. I’m your host Jason Hilliard and today we’ll be interviewing Joanne Pugsley, the career development coordinator at Myers Park High School in Charlotte North Carolina. Myers Park High School is one of the largest high schools in North Carolina with over three thousand students; with over eleven hundred students taking college level courses and programs such as A.P. and IB with twenty two A.P. courses offered and forty five IB courses, one hundred different clubs and many athletic teams. The high school has great leadership and faculty that supports students as they transition from high school to college.
Today we will be talking about career and technical education opportunities available to high school students and specifically about a program available in North Carolina based on a strong community college network and strong ties to the four year colleges in the state.
Why this is exciting to me as a father of a middle schooler and a freshman in high school is this provides an opportunity for families to save one and maybe two years of a four year college costs while the student is in high school. It also makes gaining entry to four year program easier as you do not have to face the stiff entry criteria of incoming freshman classes as they can transfer in as sophomores.
Availability of this program is in many states and should be something you ask your high school guidance counselor’s office in your school. I’ll be viewing some program details, how it works, who it is available for and why students should be interested in finding out more about these types of programs that may be offered in your schools.
On the line we have Joanne Pugsley who has taken the time out of her busy day to stop by the show. Thanks Joanne for joining.
Joanne: Thank you for having me.
Jason: You bet. Well the first question I had out of the gate is Myers Park High School offers what’s called a College and Career Promise Program or participation in that program, would you care to share what that program is?
Joanne: Absolutely. In January of 2012, the North Carolina state legislature, I believe is the governing body, decided that it was important to give high school students an opportunity to participate in early college experience. So the state department of instruction has partnered with the community college system and created an articulation agreement that allows high school students to participate in college classes. So that that’s the simple explanation; it’s that juniors and seniors can participate in college classes at their community college, not just Myers Park with Central Piedmont Community College which is our partner community college. But any North Carolina junior or senior in high school can participate with their partner community college through their high school. And the beauty of this program is that college tuition and fees are waived for the juniors and seniors who choose to participate. So essentially college is free.
Jason: Which is amazing in this day because the cost of college is just amazingly high and trending upward at a pretty great rate. I think over the past thirty years, the rate of college education costs has increased over five percent a year which outpaces inflation and health care costs. It’s the highest segment of cost increase in the past twenty to thirty years. So I think that being able to save money and not have to pay that college tuition by taking advantage of this new program is a great opportunity.
Joanne: The promotional materials that come out estimate that students who fully participate in the program which means that they take all of their class their junior and senior year to the community college can experience the savings of almost thirty thousand dollars.
Jason: Amazing. That right there I think is a great opportunity for folks. And that I think is speaking to averages because the cost of different schools is ranged to different cost based on the different schools you do go to. But yeah, that’s just a tremendous savings.
And you’ve mentioned that this opportunity is available to high school students, so you must be a junior or senior in high school. You can’t participate your sophomore year. There’s no exceptions to that. You can’t participate in the summer after your sophomore year. So basically is it while the school is in session or are there summer opportunities available for students?
Joanne: The guidelines are pretty specific and very stringent and they’re not guidelines that we at the high school can alter or change. The community colleges have agreed on what these guidelines are going to be and they’re consistent throughout the state of North Carolina. So they’re pretty rigid; if you meet them you’re in, if you don’t meet them hopefully your grades could come up the next semester and maybe you’ll qualify the next time around.
So basically you need to be a junior or senior; so students can begin the registration process as early as spring semester of their sophomore year. So currently right now it’s mid-February and we have started the enrollment process for the summer and fall terms. So students who are sophomores who are interested in participating in the fall are eligible to begin the enrollment process right now because it takes a little while to get all the documents and your ducks in a row in order to go to college. It’s not something you do in two days. Sometimes the kids are used to showing up at their high school and say ‘hey, I’m ready to register for classes’ and they expect to see a guidance counselor and the afternoon is over, they have a course schedule. College is a little different and it takes some time.
So we started enrolling usually the semester before so sophomores are enrolling right now for their fall semester junior year. So you can participate your junior and senior year as well as the summer in between. Sophomores can’t participate in summer school because summer school starts at the end of May and our sophomores have not completed their sophomore year yet. They’re not considered juniors until June, once they have completed their sophomore year. So they’re ineligible for the summer before their junior year. Juniors are eligible for the summer school between their junior and senior year. And in fact seniors are eligible for summer school after they graduate because summer school starts for colleges usually at the end of May and our seniors haven’t graduated yet so they still qualify for the program because our seniors don’t graduate until mid-June. So as long as summer school can fit into their summer schedule, they are eligible for the summer after graduation as well.
In order to qualify for the program, I did mention that grades are a consideration as well as college entrance exam scores. So to begin with there’s two levels; students need a 2.6 weighted G.P.A. to qualify for the first level of the program which allows them to take technical classes in the career and technical education component. There’s usually over fifty programs that they can choose to participate in, ranging anywhere from culinary arts, cosmetology, architecture, welding, automotive, several engineering strands, so some really really cool options, interior design – some classes I would have loved to have taken when I was in high school actually. I think they would have been a lot of fun.
And then the next step up, you have to have a 3.0 GPA and that’s where you start getting into the classes that transfer to four year universities. All of the class of that are on the transfer list have already been approved by the University of North Carolina school system or university system for transfer. So we don’t have to go through and say ‘oh is that going to work if I go to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. We already know that those classes I’ve been approved for transfer.
You do you have to have qualifying test scores, we can use your PSAT scores from your sophomore and junior year. We can use pre-ACT scores from your sophomore year and we can also use your ACT scores. And I can also mix and match some of those; sometimes students have maybe a low reading in one test but a high reading in another that qualifies, I can use scores from multiple exams. So that’s really wonderful.
And these three test scores that I mentioned the PSAT, the pre-ACT are given in the fall, usually October of the sophomore school year. So I have a lot of students who walk into office and say ‘gee I didn’t think this test was important and so I didn’t do very well on it because I even like took a nap during the reading portion.’ So I really want to stress to freshmen and sophomores out there that those pre-college entrance exam scores are very very important and they should really do their best on them because they never know, they might be able to use those to take some college classes. And this is the only time in their high school career that those pre-college entrance scores can actually be used for college admittance. So it’s important they do well on those tests.
The ACT is administered in the spring of the junior year. So students who are relying on those test scores are already a little behind because they could have already been taking classes at CPCC, so those sophomore scores are important. Those three tests are administered by all schools in North Carolina and they’re free to all students. So now there’s not a financial reason why taking those college entrance exams are now free. So we are eliminating another financial barrier.
I can use SAT scores as well. The SAT is not given by the state of North Carolina here at our high schools. That’s a test that people will have to pay for and take privately. I can use those scores if they provide them to me.
And we have one last option and that is CPCC, Central Piedmont Community College gives a placement test as well. So if I need to, we can have the student take a placement test at CPCC. If they score well enough on the placement test, I can use those scores.
Jason: Right. A lot of different options and I think that the key with a lot of what you said, it sounds like just taking the time, the advance planning just making sure that you’re in front of some of those qualifications and making sure that you’re following the right steps. Because it sounds like there’s two paths; you remain a Myers Park High School student and you’re still registered and taking classes at Myers Park and there’s some flexibility in terms of how many classes you choose to take at Central Piedmont Community College if you meet those qualifications. So there’s some flexibility. But what that requires is you’re registering and maintaining your status as a Myers Park High School student and separately registering as a college student, going through that registration process through the CPCC organization and their process that they must follow as well for their students.
Joanne: That’s correct. And it takes some planning, it takes some forethought to make sure that those two programs mesh together.
Jason: Right. And that’s great. I think in one of your missions and your position there is to make that process as simple and as smooth as possible and you’ve really done a great job. I noticed on the website that’s available through Myers Park High School, your specific site that you’re able to guide, to put steps and checklists and those types of things that you’ve made available; so I think that’s great. How do folks find that site Joanne?
Joanne: The easiest way to find it is just by googling Myers Park High School. We have a main school page. I’m in the college career center and my department have a direct link on the left side of our school website. Once you get to the college and careers center website, across the top I have a tab for Career and College Promise Program. In that tab is all of the electronic access to the documents that are required as well as simple five little steps for enrolling if your first time enrollee. And students do have to pre-register every semester for the program. And so if you’re a returning student, we have a returning applicant process which is a lot simpler than someone who’s going through the process the first time.
Jason: Ok, great. And I’ll make sure that in the show notes I include the links and reference to those steps and those instructions. So that was great information, thank you. Why would you say that the College and Career Promise is a good idea for high school students?
Joanne: In addition to just having an opportunity to experience some college classes, it’s a great way for students to expand their elective options at their high school. For example, we don’t offer cosmetology at Myers Park High School. If a student is interested in that, they just can’t take those classes here. So the technical programs expand the elective offerings that a student can take in high school because the classes will show up as a college class on the college transcript as well as their high school transcript. So they’ll get credit for an elective here at Myers Park by taking one of those college classes. A technical class is weighted as an honors course. So a student might want to take that technical honors class instead of taking a regular standard elective at Myers Park.
The other advantage is that students can expand their knowledge in a particular elective course of study. For example, Myers Park has an automotive program here and that program continues and expands at Central Piedmont Community College with an automotive program there. So a student can really get started here and you know love that area of interest and then continue taking that in college classes while they’re a junior or senior. So that’s one example of how you can take advantage of the course offerings at CPCC. And then of course you have the college track. We have A.P. courses at Myers Park which provide the opportunity for college credit but we certainly cannot offer all the options that CPCC have for college credit. So for an A.P. type student who is interested in gathering those college credits, we have the ability to really expand their choices in that area. So those are two examples of how the technical track and the transfer track might work for a student.
Jason: Sure. And when I look over the list, I think you’ve mentioned over fifty different tracks available at CPCC that is just a tremendous amount. There are vocational tracks, there are tracks that I imagine lead to certifications and employable situations where someone could come out with completing these tracks and earn forty thousand dollars a year or more in a great job with benefits. You know basically, not far removed from high school and I think that just seems like a great opportunity for a lot of different students.
Joanne: Yes, I’m glad you mentioned that. In fact, I have a student right now who will graduate with her certificate in E.M.S. which is the emergency medical services. She’ll be able to ride on ambulances and she has a goal to work in the health care industry. So she’ll have that certification when she finished. I have an engineering student who is taking certification right now and I think it’s called Geomatics. It’s actually surveying. We have a pharmacy certification of well. So yeah, you’re right there’s lots of opportunities for students to actually earn industry certifications at the same time. When they graduate from high school they’ll be able to use that certification and get a higher paying job than say someone who coming out without any experience or industry knowledge and might need to start at minimum wage somewhere.
Jason: To just add on even more because I’ve been talking to directors of admission at different colleges and one thing they look for and love in students is experience, practical experience and students who have proven interest in different areas. And so your student who has her E.M.S. track and certification, she’s able to come out and get employed but she’s also able to demonstrate a strong interest within that field. And if she wanted to move on into medical school, something like that, that experience makes an amazing difference. And that applicant compared to the applicant that just did your traditional four year college and didn’t do anything in the field of medicine or health care is a little behind a student that has followed through on the tactical track where she’s now in position to really do well.
Joanne: I agree Jason. Many colleges and universities are looking for students who have shown proven interest in their potential career fields. It’s expensive and time consuming to select a student and go through a program, they want to make sure that the graduates coming out are actually going to work in the field that they’re choosing to study.
Jason: Ok, good. So logistically where are these classes conducted, how do students coordinate the logistics of being on two different campuses each day? How do you how help prepare students for that?
Joanne: Well let’s talk about maybe six different campuses every day, that’s how significant it is. You know, as great as the program is, I think sometimes that it’s overwhelming initially because there are so many choices. And when a student comes in to see me it’s like ‘gee, where do we start and what do you want to do’ is a really important question to figure out because that’s an opportunity and there’s so much to it sometimes.
How do you coordinate schedule? Well first of all, a junior at high school must have eight classes in order to be considered a full time student. Those classes can be combined between Myers Park and CCP programs. So what we have to take a look at is how many classes does the student want to take at Myers Park and how many classes do they want to take at CCP so that we can coordinate. Central Piedmont Community College offers many many courses online so that’s a great help. Because first of all some students don’t have a driver’s license, so they may be limited to online options which is great for them. Some students may have scheduling difficulties so online options become an opportunity to kind of alleviate those problems as well. Some students only take one or two classes at Myers Park and they have a wide open schedule so now they’re not limited to when they can take courses. Obviously we’re always limited to courses that are offered at Central Piedmont Community College. There are no special classes for juniors and seniors in high school at the community college. They enroll in courses that are offered to all college students at Central Piedmont Community College. It’s up to us and the student to make sure that the course they want to take is offered at a time that fits into their Myers Park High School schedule which again can vary from a student taking all eight classes at Myers Park with these being in addition to. Or a student who has satisfied their Myers Park requirements for that school year and are taking either five or six classes at Central Piedmont Community. And then you have to add on that Central Piedmont Community have multiple campuses. They have the Harper campus, they have the Merancas campus, Levine campus and central campus downtown. As long as the student can get to that campus, they can take the course there. I have a student who takes one class at the central location and have another class at Levine on different days. That’s what worked out for her schedule. So we do have to coordinate that.
Jason: Yeah and that’s where that coordination, planning and kind of lead time, good time management – I think if you kind of combine all of those. I would just imagine that parents are involved or should be involved in supporting their students as they help navigate these two different tracks. The benefits are obvious. It’s just that coordination level might be something that you would really like mom and dad to kind of assist with. Do you see parents stepping in and helping their students?
Joanne: I see more parent involvement with the sophomores because most of them don’t have their driver’s license at this point and you know, it’s college. The seniors that come in to see me are a lot more independent and they should be at that level, be ready to make that college transition at that point anyway. So it kind of depends. I do have some independent students that come in and then bring their parents in after they’ve done some initial research, so that’s always good to see.
Jason: Sure, yeah…kind of an ‘it depends’ scenario. And I think in terms of students interested or parents interested in finding out more probably the best starting place would be to…
Joanne: Central Piedmont Community College offers an informational meeting on the program every Monday at four thirty at the central campus. And they strongly encourage that all students who want to participate in the program attend one of those informational meetings. Again, it’s every Monday at 4:30 at Central High, Room 331. There’s free parking behind the Central High building campus, it’s up there on Elizabeth Avenue towards the uptown area. They hold this meeting every Monday so students and parents can go directly to CPCC, find out the information about this program from CPCC themselves that will answer a lot of their questions rather than seeking me out on an individual basis when they have someone up there that can answer the general questions that most students and parents ask and they can explain the program. They can explain about parking and student fees and how they’re waived and how scheduling happens. And that’s a great great great resource to get started.
And then once you come in and see me all those basics have been covered and now parents and students can ask more specific information that they may have about their situation and how that fits into the overall program.
Jason: That makes sense and I did attend one of the information sessions in December and it was very helpful. They do have a pretty good program, a good summary overview, they hand out packets for those attending, so it is a great session. And yeah, I’ll include also in the notes, the logistics on where the meeting is; Central High Building Room 331 on Elizabeth avenue. And that I think recurs every Monday through May first and then they probably run it again maybe when the school year gets going again back in the fall.
Ok well Joanne, any other comments or questions that you think people might have?
Joanne: No. The application process itself seems a little daunting on my website. There is a CCP enrollment checklist that students can print out so that they know what really does have to be done. And then there’s two buttons, again if you’re a new applicant or returning applicant that steps you through the actual registration process that really once you get your CPC ID number from Central Piedmont Community College, the rest takes about ten minutes to complete. And then once students apply, they do you have to wait about two weeks because they’re going to get their CPC ID number. And then they’re going to go through my application process at Myers Park. And I have to communicate with CPCC to let them know that this is now a career college promise student from Myers Park and that takes a little coordination behind the scenes. And once that approval happens, then students wait until it’s time to sign up for classes. So we could be doing that right now and getting students approved for the program and then they’ll just sit and wait once their approval is complete until it’s time to register for classes.
The one thing that I do want to mention is that sometimes students get confused with enrollment in the program with enrollment in courses. So we enroll in college and then we register for classes. And sometimes students and parents get those two words mixed up and they think when I say that the enrollment deadline is this date, sometimes I have students coming in on that day saying ‘can I enroll in my classes now?’ And it’s like well you haven’t enroll in college yet. So there is a two-step process there, we have to enroll in the program which takes two to three weeks to get the paperwork finished not from the students’ perspective but from me and Central Piedmont Community College perspective. And then we can register for classes.
Jason: Ok, yeah. I think that’s important to know; so if interested in the program, it’s best to follow the steps to get enrolled in the program and at college, get your college ID. And then when that registration period opens for the college, which I believe is May 1st of the year for the fall term, students would then be able to participate. If they came to you at the end of the school year or after May 1st, that registration period has already started and people already are registering for classes at CPCC.
Joanne: Yes, college is first come first serve and they’re very unforgiving with that. If all the classes are full then there’s nothing available for you to take. I actually had student email me at one time and said the class I wanted to take isn’t available, what else can we do? Well, there is nothing else that we can do. That’s the schedule and if the courses are full then I guess you wait until the next semester and try again. So early enrollment and early registration when that registration date opens on May 1st is really important to get the classes that you want.
Jason: Ok. Well good Joanne, this is being great information. I’m sure it will be very helpful to a lot of families, parents and students alike. So definitely thank you.
Joanne: Thank you and I appreciate you having me Jason.
Jason: Well that concludes today’s Hired Graduate show. Thank you very much for listening. Again the show notes will be available, the links to some of the important resources that we discussed and some of the logistics that we discussed will all be in the show notes. So have a great rest of the day.