This month’s “What the CV-hec is Happening” guest blog is by Dr. Jessica Grimes, regional chair and interim associate vice chancellor of career education and workforce development for the Central Valley/Mother Lode Regional Consortium based at the Kern Community College District in Bakersfield. She reflects on CVML’s recent “Enrollment Growth and Pathways: A Strategy Session” held in Bakersfield that addressed pandemic recovery and bolstering enrollment with emphasis on increasing dual enrollment as an equity strategy. Several community organizations and agencies gathered for the day-long event including the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium.
The way forward is together …
BY DR. JESSICA GRIMES
It is no secret that the pandemic resulted in seismic changes in higher education, most notably in the warp-speed transition to online learning and other hybrid modes of delivery for hard-to-convert career education courses.
The pandemic also revealed opportunity gaps among students experiencing a host of besetting challenges, such as homelessness, food insecurity and limited broadband.
The Central Valley/Mother Lode‘s 15 colleges responded admirably by reimagining and redesigning programs with more flexibility and supports. It was in that innovative spirit of converting challenges to opportunities that the idea of the “Enrollment Growth and Pathways: A Strategy Session” was born.
Hosted by Fresno City College April 25, EGP was designed to address one of the most pressing challenges from the pandemic: recovering and bolstering enrollment. Given that the community colleges have always been integral in offering pathways out of poverty through career technical education (CTE) programs and work-based learning opportunities, the EGP strategy session explored ways to increase dual enrollment as an equity strategy, an idea developed by Dr. Sonya Christian, incoming California Community Colleges chancellor who served as keynote speaker.
Dr. Robert Pimentel, FCC president, welcomed over 100 people from the CVML Regional Consortium and beyond. The one-day planning session started with setting the context around equity and dual enrollment where Dr. Christian spoke about “Ninth Grade to Baccalaureate: The Critical Eight Years” and howthe convergence of Guided Pathways, Vision for Success, the Governor’s Roadmap, the Student Centered Funding Formula and Completion Metrics have made it possible to accelerate student access and equity, aided by policy reform and system reform.
I poke about reimagining the student journey as one that reflects the myriad educational policies that have progressively included more students from diverse backgrounds — suggesting that, just as the Vocational Education Act imagined Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society,” the Strong Workforce Program also imagines more students having access to careers regardless of background.
Michelle Stricker from the Foundation of Community Colleges spoke on the ecosystem that supports dual enrollment, i.e. Guided Pathways and the support that regional coordinators provide to ensure that dual enrollment students benefit from pathways that lead to good, quality careers. Stricker touched on the Guided Pathways Toolkit as a resource for developing pathways rather than “random acts of dual enrollment.”
Angel Ramirez and Elaine Cash of the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium — made up of 28 colleges from Stockton to Bakersfield and a statewide leader in dual enrollment advocacy with several initiatives — spoke on consortium progress accomplished through its Central Valley Dual Enrollment Equity & Prosperity (CVDEEP) Task Force, regional coordinators and communications team. Strategic planning involves convening K-12 partners and community colleges to collaborate on creating pathways for students as well as communications outreach with a video, media features and student involvement.
They also discussed CVHEC’s Master’s Upskilling initiative to address one of the challenges of expanding dual enrollment: meeting minimum teaching qualifications. CVHEC is piloting this MA program with 112 teachers from Fresno County (56 in math and 56 in English) and 100 in Kern County (50 in math and 50 in English).
Following the CVHEC session, Dr. Craig Hayward provided data decks on the 15 colleges in the CVML and explained the correlation between students who are dual enrolled and those students attending community colleges: “Overall, college attendance increases with the number of dual enrollment units earned; moreover, four-year college attendance increases significantly with the number of dual enrollment units earned and, conversely, two-year college attendance decreases as the number of dual enrollment units increases.”
The last session, co-presented by Dr. Naomi Castro (Career Ladders Project) and Kylie Campbell (Kern Community College District), was an interactive session that honed in on dual enrollment expansion in the CVML.
Beginning with legislation that made dual enrollment possible, Castro and Campbell defined the types of dual enrollment that can be offered – early college and middle college (offered at the college), CCAP and non-CCAP offered at the high school and concurrent enrollment offered at the college. Then they circled back to Dr. Christian’s presentation on the eight-year journey for ninth graders and asked participants who were organized in different college teams to present .
Campbell asked participants to strategize DE pathways through three activities: (1) planning an educational pathway for all ninth graders based on the incoming headcount and from the data decks that Dr. Hayward provided; (2) using a pathway mapping tool, outline course and pathway offerings that would increase student access; and (3) set short-term goals for 2023-2024 and long-term goals for the next three years using the previous two activities.
I began this post about our “Enrollment Growth and Pathways: A Strategy Session” with a reflection on the pandemic being a mixed bag of blessings for education. Also, I noted how the CVML region rose to the challenge and is continuing to do so locally, sub-regionally and regionally as exemplified in the Enrollment Growth and Pathways. While this convening isn’t unique for the region — we come together annually to plan projects in June — it was the first of its kind for us in spearheading a planning session around a singular goal: increasing equity and access via dual enrollment.
This also serves another purpose: increasing enrollment.
The CVML mission focuses on decreasing equity gaps that perpetuate generational poverty. The way to bring about more opportunities for prosperity for all is to co-construct strategies together and to dismantle what isn’t working so that pathways to prosperity become more and more accessible for students living in rural as well as urban or suburban areas.
The way forward is together. While that might sound like a pithy sentiment, it’s true.
For me, the Enrollment Growth and Pathways session is a template to continue addressing other challenges that we face in education, so I look forward to expanding partnerships and bringing together thought partners from K-16, adult education consortia, industry, economic development corporations, workforce development boards, chambers of commerce, nonprofits and community-based organizations, centers of excellence and the like to keep moving forward toward our shared goals.