Last week South St. Paul Public Schools superintendent Dave Webb announced a partnership with Inver Hills Community College (IHCC) that will allow high school seniors to graduate with an associate degree at no cost and without ever leaving the high school grounds.
Growth & Justice has long been advocating for more seamless transitions all along the education pathway, with high-quality early childhood education aligning with early grades, for instance. And this kind of innovation at the other end of the pipeline is the kind of effort needed to achieve the goal of a significantly higher postsecondary completion rate by the end of this decade.
At least three distinct advantages stand out.
- Cost: Saves students and families more than $10,000 in college tuition and fees.
- Convenience: Allows students to remain on the high school campus.
- Curriculum: Strengthens curriculum offerings and retains high-achieving students.
Doug Binsfeld, Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts at IHCC, attributed the success of the alignment to South St. Paul’s challenging International Baccalaureate (IB) program, noting that initially almost all of the IB courses met the “higher-order" thinking that is expected from college students. The IB Diploma Program is an internationally recognized, comprehensive, two-year pre-college curriculum, requiring students to study six subjects and take exams at the end of each course.
Offering students the chance to earn an associate degree while still in high school can help Minnesota increase the percentage of students who complete a postsecondary degree. Cliff Adelman’s study for the U.S. Department of Education shows that if a high school student completes 12 college credits while in high school, they are 80% more likely to persist in college and complete a degree. This is especially important in Minnesota because we need a highly trained workforce. According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2018, 70% of jobs in Minnesota will require a postsecondary education, yet only about 50% of the current population meets this demand.
In our Smart Investment Agenda for Education in Minnesota, Growth & Justice recommends academic offerings that allow students to earn college credits while in high school like Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, Post Secondary Enrollment Options, and College in the Schools, as a strategy to increase the higher education attainment rate to 75% by 2020.
We know other promising efforts are underway that will get all of us thinking beyond high school as the optimum destination, and toward a mindset around grades "11 through 14." Gov. Dayton's administration is working on just such a framework. And at least two local efforts are noteworthy:
- Central Lakes College in Brainerd partnered with Long Prairie-Grey Eagle High School to create the 4 for 2 program.
- Anoka-Ramsey Community College is teaming with Irondale High School in New Brighton to launch the Early College program for 9th and 10th graders this fall.
We support MnSCU’s continued work in this area. There is great opportunity here to expand partnerships and get and keep more Minnesota students on the pathway to college.
--Colin O'Keefe (Growth & Justice Education Policy Intern)