RIC/Mt. Pleasant High School dual enrollment pilot program wins The College Board’s New England regional award for 2010

“Pathways Through College,” the dual enrollment pilot program between Rhode Island College and Mt. Pleasant High School, has been chosen as the New England Regional Assembly Recognition Award Winner for 2010 by The College Board. The award will be presented at The College Board’s New England Regional Forum at The Sheraton Boston Hotel in Boston, Mass., on Feb. 9.

According to The College Board, “Pathways Through College” was honored as a program “that has shown outstanding commitment to students and to the field of education by enabling underrepresented students with academic and leadership potential to attend college.”

“I am so pleased and proud that this well-deserved honor has come to the Pathways Program," said RIC President Nancy Carriuolo. "The students, faculty, staff, and administrators all worked hard to make this program a resounding success. As Deputy Commissioner at OHE, I worked on the development of the program with the Nellie Mae Foundation, Jess Geier and our partners at Mt. Pleasant High School; then later as president of RIC, I was pleased to support the collaboration of Jess and the leaders of Mt. Pleasant High with RIC’s equally talented and committed faculty, administrators and staff. I saw each and every collaborator work as a team to provide the promising students in the program with the support and encouragement that aided them in becoming the successes they are today. “

The program is overseen by Geier, director of early college access programs at the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education’s Office of Higher Education (OHE).

“We are most pleased to receive this recognition from The College Board,” said Board of Governors Chairman Frank Caprio in a release. “The Board’s mission is to help promote accessible and affordable public higher education in Rhode Island. Programs such as ‘Pathways’ help develop awareness of the benefits of a postsecondary education as well as the potential in students who might not traditionally be considered as being ready for college or who might not even be considering a college education.”

“I want to congratulate Rhode Island College and Mt. Pleasant High School, as well as Dr. Geier and the entire ‘Pathways’ team, for their commitment and dedication to this effort,” said acting commissioner of higher education Ray M. Di Pasquale. “This team has shepherded the program from its infancy through three years of outstanding success. The program has done an outstanding job of not only getting these students to college but in helping them stay in school and persist in their studies. We are now gleaning key knowledge from the three years of this pilot program with an eye toward using that information to help develop a sustainable, statewide effort in the not-too-distant future.”

“Pathways through College” began in FY2008 when the governor and General Assembly first allocated state funds for dual enrollment activities. Later that year, the program was funded to a large degree by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, which allowed the Office of Higher Education to establish five new dual enrollment pilot projects in other areas of the state.

Students selected for the “Pathways” pilot were those who exhibited academic and/or leadership potential but who, by their own admission, were not thinking about or planning on attending college for any number of reasons.

State and Nellie Mae funding continued in FY2009. Nellie Mae funding ended after that but state dollars were again included in the FY2010 budget allowing the pilot to continue for a third year.

In the first two years of the program, Mt. Pleasant seniors participated in a college skills course in the fall. This course was taught at the high school, two days a week after school, by RIC instructors. Those who completed the course successfully were then recommended for a full immersion semester at RIC in the spring.

The 22 students who participated in 2007-08 had an average GPA at RIC of 3.50. All 22 graduated from high school with 15 college credits and attended college in the fall. (One deferred to the spring.) In 2008-09, 22 students began in the fall and 19 continued on to the immersion semester in the spring. (The 2008-09 GPA average – with more difficult courses – was 3.20.) All 22 students graduated from high school and the 19 who finished the program are attending four-year postsecondary institutions.

The new cohort for 2009-10 began a revamped program this summer. The students for this effort were selected before the end of their junior year in high school. They then took the college skills course over the summer and began a yearlong, full immersion at RIC in the fall.

Several graduates of the program have interned at the Office of Higher Education and have also been active in OHE’s “Preparing for College” effort that involves presentation to groups of middle and high school students across the state touting the benefits of postsecondary education.