High school students at Toms River Regional Schools will have ample opportunities to get a head start on their collegiate careers thanks to an expanded partnership between the district and Ocean County College.
Dual enrollment will enable students to earn college credits, certificates, and even associate degrees through academic pathways aligned with OCC course offerings. The catalyst to this arrangement is the district being recognized as a satellite location for the college, for which the Toms River Board of Education passed a resolution earlier this fall, and which is in the process of being recognized through OCC’s Middle States Accreditation application process.
“The benefits of this arrangement reach far and wide, and it’s difficult for me to overstate the positive impact this will have for our students and families,” said Superintendent David Healy. “This will increase our course offerings, boost the profile of our Career Academies, increase academic achievement and produce more college-ready graduates, and ultimately provide significant cost savings for our families.”
The rollout for this enhanced dual enrollment program will be September 2021. Students will have the option to take OCC-level courses at a reduced rate and earn college credits. Certificates (30 credits) and associate degrees (60 credits) will be available in pathways such as business, science, manufacturing, graphic arts, and IT. There will be opportunities for assistance based on need, which includes standard student scholarships through the college.
"Every parent in the district should be jumping for joy at this news." - Board President Anna Polozzo
OCC Executive Director of Academic Success Dr. Henry Jackson presented a snapshot of the program during a public committee meeting Nov. 11. He stressed that the program is fully optional-- the courses will be offered regardless of robust or minimal enrollment-- and spoke of its advantages.
“The goal here is to allow your students the option to take these courses and earn college credits,” Dr. Jackson said. “Ultimately, they’ll be able to utilize our entire OCC course catalogue.”
Students who complete between 12 and 24 college credits, Dr. Jackson explained, are at a distinct advantage when applying to colleges. With credits under their belt, students can apply for sophomore programs at colleges and universities. Not only does this potentially save parents a year of tuition; it gives students a competitive edge. Rather than contending with the biggest pool of college applicants, graduates with credits become more appealing to colleges seeking to fill a sophomore class that typically dwindles after freshmen drop out or transfer.
“I know firsthand what this level of college readiness can mean for families since my daughter recently graduated High School South and OCC with an associate degree in math,” said Board President Anna Polozzo. “What’s uniquely special about this dual enrollment program is that OCC works so well with our high school kids to ensure that their college credits are relevant and applicable. Having recently gone through this process, I’ve seen the disappointment of students who learn, for example, that their AP credits don’t count. That’s not the case here. OCC, in combination with our teachers and guidance counselors, is truly preparing our students for college, and giving them genuine leverage. Every parent in the district should be jumping for joy at this news.”
The journey to this point began years ago and, under the direction of Superintendent Healy, was spearheaded by former Assistant Superintendent Dr. Marc Natanagara and then Director of Curriculum Norma DeNoia. That torch has been successfully carried by Assistant Superintendent Cara DiMeo, Director of 6-12 Curriculum Dr. Estee Mailot, and Supervisor of Educational Technology Tiffany Lucey.
“This is a matter of equity,” said DiMeo. “Not only will dual enrollment help our Career Academy and general education students; it meets the needs of our at-risk learners who might not have otherwise pursued a college pathway.
“This is truly momentous for the district, a product of years of hard work by many people from different organizations working together in the interest of students. We couldn’t be prouder.”
"It’s difficult for me to overstate the positive impact this will have for our students and families." - Superintendent David Healy
That the district has the capacity to implement this program is a testament to its strong working relationship with OCC, top-level support, and its own efforts to foster career readiness. Last week TRRS attained Phase 1 approval for its Perkins application which, once fully approved, will release more than $90,000 for this school year in support of CTE programs of study which offer dual enrollment, including strands in manufacturing, finance, and digital arts. OCC’s own Perkins funding can be redirected toward these efforts as well, and tuition for these courses will be partially rerouted to the district by OCC to help sustain the program. Initiatives like the Career Academies and high-level grants that have supported or required college pathways-- all of which were buoyed by board support and active administrative involvement-- laid the foundation for enhanced dual enrollment.
“Without the [Toms River] school board’s support, and Mr. Healy’s support, we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” said Dr. Jackson.
Extensive planning is underway among administrators, curriculum writers, educators, and guidance counselors to design and align the courses and develop the coursework, which will be rigorous, and work out the remaining details and logistics. More information will be provided in the coming months, and enhanced dual enrollment will anchor the launch of the 2020-2021 school year.