California is investing in dual enrollment, which allows high school students to take college courses. Several initiatives—including the College and Career Access Pathways (CCAP), the Golden State Pathways Program, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office’s Roadmap and Vision 2030, and compacts with CSU and UC—are expanding the reach of dual enrollment, and Governor Newsom’s recent executive order cites dual enrollment as key to strengthening pathways to high-demand careers in key areas for California’s future, such as health care, climate resilience, and technology. We talked to Dr. Sandra Fuentes, Interim Dean of Early College at Reedley College—a rural community college in the Central Valley—about how dual enrollment can help historically underserved students succeed in college.
How can colleges work with communities and educational partners to ensure an equitable expansion of dual enrollment?
Thanks in part to policy changes like AB 288, which launched CCAP, we know dual enrollment affords our most marginalized students an opportunity to take college courses while they’re still in high school. With that comes a number of challenges, including educating our community about what dual enrollment is—particularly the parents, because they are an integral part of the student’s success.
We’re a rural community college, and about 9% of our families include baccalaureate degree holders. When students are looking for information they turn to their parents, and if parents aren’t knowledgeable about dual enrollment, how can they support that? Providing information to students and parents about how to access dual enrollment and subsequently transition to post-secondary education is key.
Strengthening partnerships and aligning pathways at all levels is also important. Here at Reedley, we have 19 partner high schools. I think that having a common language across systems—from high schools to UC and CSU—is critical. Reedley offers seven pathways—we have Agriculture and Natural Resources; Art, Music, and English; Business; Child Development & Education; Industrial Manufacturing; Social Science; and STEM. But our high schools also have what they call pathways, and their pathways aren’t necessarily aligned with ours.
As you know, California Community Colleges Chancellor Sonya Christian wants all students in California to have the opportunity to graduate from high school with at least 12 college credits. Are there particular dual enrollment courses that can help improve college enrollment and success among underserved students?
We all want to provide our marginalized students with access to career pathways, but that starts with courses that are going to be pivotal in their ability to persist. Reedley has a Counseling 53 course—a basic introduction to the community college system. It helps with learning styles, career assessment, time management, financial literacy, and diversity.
When students take their first course and they’re successful, and they’re hearing for the very first time that they can complete a certificate or a degree—this kind of encouragement is key to helping them persist. It helps them pass other pivotal courses. Especially transfer-level English and math. Research has demonstrated that students who pass English and math by the first year of college are more successful in persisting through completion.
I also think career exploration and internship opportunities are huge. We partner with community businesses to offer internships in aeronautics, agriculture, manufacturing, welding, and so on. Historically, many students would not look for internships until they were completing their junior or senior year in college. And many of our students have changed majors three to five times. We’re hoping that offering internships tied to dual enrollment will help students align their pathways a lot sooner.
What role do you see online dual enrollment playing in the future? How can online dual enrollment courses and supports be structured to facilitate equitable access and success?
Here at Reedley, we offer face-to-face, online, and hybrid courses. We were able to pivot online during COVID, and we had a big increase in dual enrollment offerings; dual enrollment is now 42% of our college’s enrollment. Online learning is not for everyone, but it offers all students more opportunities to access dual enrollment courses. Offering a range of modalities has been a good way for us to support our students and expand our ability to offer courses.
We have full wraparound support for all learning modalities, including online instruction. Our Starfish platform allows us to serve students holistically. Early Alert flags can be raised for a student who might need additional academic support or have basic need insecurities. Starfish allows us to support our students’ success.
Reedley is continuing to work on increasing accessibility to all students with different strategic partners to increase connectivity and provide hardware and other resources that might be needed to access online courses.