Conscious Learner Pathways Transition CE Students into Credit Bearing ProgramsDenise Arixa Flores | Workforce and Career Services Coordinator, Laredo College
Continuing education divisions serve as an entry point to ongoing education and career skill development for folks across an institution’s service area, and nowhere is this role more important than at community colleges. But how can students progress toward further credentials upon completing their non-credit offerings? In this interview, Denise Flores reflects on how the articulation pathway program at Laredo College helps transition non-credit students into credit-bearing offerings.
The EvoLLLution (Evo): Why is it so valuable for non-credit divisions to create pathways to transfer learners into credit bearing programs?
Denise Flores (DF): What college systems often fail to see is that adult learners and continuing education students are our customers as well.
With programs such as these career pathways that we offer, we are able to extend opportunities to non-traditional students to advance their education in new ways. Many of these students graduate from high school and never consider the next steps. Our programs not only provide that first stepping stone for all of these students, but they also allow us to participate in achieving the 60×30 goal that has been set for Texas. We recruit different types of populations and matriculate them into the college through continuing ed programs.
Evo: How do stackable articulation modelshelp create pathways to degrees for CE students?
DF: Adult and CE students, as well as students who did not follow the traditional path of a college student, tend to come into these programs with the intention of staying only for the short term. They want something quick and easy that will give them employability skills. What they do not know is that, along with those employability skills, they are being prepared for college-level courses. In a way, they are committing to a college program without knowing it!
Not only is this a benefit for the students, but it also allows colleges to create more scholarships through different grant initiatives and programs. This way students are less reliant on financial aid and are able to cover their tuition costs through special grants.
Evo: What are the biggest challenges you have faced in developing stackable articulation models?
DF: Considering that I came in when the program was already in place, I did not get to see a lot of these challenges. That said, most of the challenges occur in the beginning, when seeking internal support. It can be hard to get everyone on board.
There is a stigma associated with these students, but as soon as departments begin realizing that students are enrolling in the college and returning to continue their studies, they become more accepting.
Recruitment was another challenge at the start, as students were mainly looking for certificate and short-term programs. Condensing a 16-week course into eight weeks was difficult for these students. Many of them have full-time jobs and having to come to class from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. left little room for work-life balance. It was sometimes difficult to retain these students as they continued to drop out. To counter this, we had to optimize our recruitment process and be selective when looking for students.
Evo: How do you overcome these obstacles when it comes to building and delivering stackable articulation models?
DF: They key is communication. It’s important to communicate with internal and external departments as well as engagement and advisory committees. They need to be kept up to date and continuously be shown results and data. Negotiations need take place with departments, to ensure that they understand all the benefits of the stackable articulation model. Senior administrator support is also vitally important. Our vice presidents were very supportive of this initiative and acknowledged the drive and dedication of these students compared to traditional students.
Evo: What advice would you give to other leaders looking to achieve a similar credit pathway at their institution?
DF: Always talk to different colleges. We would communicate a lot with South Texas College and Austin Community College to hear their approaches and their initiatives with certain programs. We then designed a model based on our own experiences, programs, and grant models offered through various colleges. Also, it’s critical to be creative in finding ways to fund these programs. For us, we found and applied for numerous grants that helped set us up for sustainability and success.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.