WARWICK – The Community College of Rhode Island has received a $271,023 grant to continue piloting STEM Connect, an enrollment partnership program in science, technology, engineering and math for the state’s high school students.
The R.I. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provided the grant funding through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.
In the program, qualified high school students can enroll in college credit-bearing courses taught by their own teachers within their own high schools. Courses have the same curriculum content and assessments as those offered on the CCRI campuses.
This fall, 12 students are enrolled in Introduction to Engineering and Technology, a three-credit course, at Westerly High School after STEM Connect successfully piloted the program there this past spring.
Next semester, Mt. Hope High School in Bristol will offer Introduction to Biotechnology Lab Skills through the STEM Connect program.
STEM Connect is part of the STEM Plus grant, which aims to strengthen, expand and update the engineering and technology programs at CCRI to make them more responsive to the changing demands of the workplace, while also reaching out to secondary schools to encourage curriculum development that will allow for expanded opportunities for their students.
“Research indicates that students who participate in concurrent enrollment programs are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in college, earn higher grade point averages and complete college degrees,” said CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale. “These are all positive outcomes for our students, partner secondary schools, CCRI and our state’s employers.”
The program offers students the opportunity to take a class in an area of interest to explore a potential future career while earning college credits at a reduced tuition rate – $245, compared to an in-state tuition rate of $611 for the same three-credit class. In some cases, the high school will pay the students’ tuition, said Project Director Diane Nobles.
High school instructors who meet faculty qualifications required by the college department will partner with CCRI faculty mentors to develop course content, instructional delivery methods and assessments.
Interested students must meet the prerequisites of the class, which are determined by achievement of certain scores on the AccuPlacer, a test CCRI uses for student placement. Students must be able to demonstrate proficiency in elementary algebra and show that they can read at a level to comprehend college textbooks, Nobles said.
Students who successfully complete the course are awarded high school and college credit with a transcript grade, which could be applied to a future CCRI degree and, in most instances, is transferrable to other colleges and universities.
Westerly students in the pilot program this spring liked the program, Nobles said.
“I liked taking the class and how it has given me the opportunity to look at a college class and see how it is run,” one wrote on an evaluation form. “I also like how it is going to give me an advantage when applying to college next year.” Another wrote: “I liked how it taught us software actual people/universities are using.”
Nobles said a goal for the upcoming year is to expand the number of partner high schools involved in the program and to increase student enrollment in the program.
CCRI, New England’s largest community college, has full-service campuses in Warwick, Lincoln, Providence and Newport and operates satellites in Westerly and in the Shepard Building in Providence. CCRI enrolls an average of nearly 18,000 students annually in credit courses and thousands more in noncredit and workforce training classes and programs.