College is Not for Everyone, But Postsecondary Credit Is!
By Brittany Lawrence
As a student, I was required to go over my course schedule with my counselor and every year we differed on the course load. She felt it was in my best interest to stay on the well-traveled path to college since I was “college bound” but I wanted to major in a career and technical field. How different is this conversation today?
Celebrating Students Choices and Options
Career coaches, counselors, and teachers are generally able to predict which students would be more successful in college. As a result, counselors are likely to steer them towards college or a career to the exclusion of all other options. This pattern consists of counselors assisting students in mapping out their futures based upon erroneous assumptions. For students they predict will be attending four year colleges and universities, counselors recommend advanced placement, concurrent credit, and encourage them to enroll in courses on college campuses. For the often labeled “unlucky” ones destined for the immediate workplace, they are placed in career and technical education (CTE) classes and expect teachers to train them for the skill sets necessary for the workplace. While many CTE students are successful with their high school classroom knowledge, it’s probable they would receive higher wages and quality trainings if they continue their educations past high school. This article proposes career professionals are failing to see that every student should be steered towards postsecondary options consistent with their interests and abilities. These educators may want to consider what would happen if they stop labeling students “college bound” and “career bound” and instead create individualized programs of study suited for each student’s interest and capacity.
Moving Beyond “College Bound” Focus
Creating individualized programs of study begins by determining all available options including the “college bound” ones. Universities and community colleges offer opportunities for students regardless of their educational label and interest. Concurrent credit, which allows students to earn college credit while simultaneously earning high school credit, is the most known form of postsecondary credit, but is not available to everyone. Students interested in technical fields have few opportunities for concurrent credit. With less focus and promotion of non-college bound training opportunities, students may feel they are entering the workforce with a limited skill set. Yet there exists a viable option for these students.
Many community colleges offer these students articulated credit towards their technical certificates in several associated areas. Articulated credit provides students the option of receiving college credit for technical courses completed in high school. The process eliminates the need to duplicate content by aligning secondary and postsecondary education courses (State Fair Community College, n.d.). This alignment consists of community colleges agreeing with high schools that the content within these courses are equivalent to those taught on their campus. These agreements assist students through smaller tuition fees and expedited certifications (Kim, 2008). Research suggests students utilizing articulated credit are less likely to drop out of school and are likely to complete a degree specific to their technical field. Additionally, articulating classes for students interested in the technical field help them transition from high school to the postsecondary training campus (Kim, 2008). Articulated credit assists students interested in pursuing careers in technical fields to establish future careers when most still have little direction.
Resources for Counselors and Educators
Creating a program of study with specific courses establishes a path for students to pursue careers that fit their interests. Counselors looking for inspiration in expanding options for their students will find many states have developed program of study templates allowing students to visualize the steps needed to receive certifications. These templates can be critical tools in helping students make informed decisions about their future. Some notable program of study templates can be found in Arkansas, Georgia, and in Chicago, Illinois (A list of these is provided below). School districts wishing to utilize articulated credit should contact the community college in their area, as each school has different offerings. Colleges will work with the school to set up agreements that benefit students most. However articulated credit is just one-step in assisting students in establishing a solid educational plan. Career professionals should constantly evaluate students to determine how to best prepare them for future careers.
Breaking Assumptions Via Collaboration
This article suggests that counselors and students are likely not aware of all post-secondary options. Counselors should provide students with distinct educational plans by establishing clear programs of study to follow and explain their options for higher educational learning such as concurrent and articulated credit. The assumption that no postsecondary training exists for the non-college bound student interests should not limit them. Counselors are encouraged to consult with universities and community colleges in their community to determine adequate postsecondary offerings. They should contact the local community college to see what offerings are available to students interested in technical fields.
Kim, J. (July 14, 2008) The impact of dual and articulated credit on college readiness and total credit hours in four selected community colleges: Excerpts from a doctoral dissertation literature review (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://www.ibhe.org/DualCredit/materials/DualCreditReviewbyJKim.pdf
What is an articulation agreement? (n.d.). Retrieved from
1. Arkansas’ program of study templates may be found at http://www.arcteassessment.com/curriculum-materials-and-information---new.html
2. Georgia’s plans of study are located at http://www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/CTAE/Pages/Georgia-Career-Pathways-New-Rule.aspx
3. Educators in the Chicago area are using program of study templates that can be found at https://sites.google.com/a/maine207.org/nservenew/programs-of-study and http://www.necsspartnership.com/students-parents/programs-of-study/
Brittany Lawrence taught secondary agricultural education and career development classes for three years. She is the Secondary Technical Liaison, Black River Technical College, Pocahontas, AR. She works as a technical education liaison between high schools and the community college to create credit opportunities and seamless transitions for students. Ms. Lawrence can be reached at brittany.lawrence#222222rivertech.edu, 870.248.4000 ext.4164