Heartland promotes college credit for high school students

NORMAL — Heartland Community College is putting a greater emphasis on partnering with area career centers to offer courses that provide both high school and college credit and give students an early experience with college success, trustees were told Tuesday night.

“A lot of those students don’t see themselves as college material,” Sarah Diel-Hunt, associate vice president for academic affairs, said in a report to the college’s board.

By offering entry-level college courses in such areas as computer networking, digital media, early childhood education and health care while the students still are in high school, Heartland hopes to put students on a path to certificates or degrees that meet the needs of employers in the district, she explained.

Heartland has offered what are called dual-credit programs for many years but on a fairly limited basis.

This spring, for the first time, the College NOW program — “NOW” stands for “new opportunities waiting” — is offering career technical education courses at the Bloomington Area Career Center and Livingston Area Career Center, Diel-Hunt said. There are 213 students in those courses.

College NOW also includes general education courses, such as English 101 and Sociology 101, and a series of workshops that focus on such skills as time management, motivation and college/career planning.

A total of 573 secondary students are taking 46 Heartland dual credit courses this year compared to 348 students in 23 courses in the 2012-13 academic year, officials said.

Besides the addition of courses and schools, growth in participation was credited, in part, to a State Farm grant underwriting tuition.

Board member Donald Gibb of Fairbury, a retired high school teacher, called expansion of Heartland’s dual-credit program “long overdue.”

In answer to a question from board Chairman Gregg Chadwick, Diel-Hunt said a faculty coordinator from Heartland works with the high school teachers who teach the dual-credit classes to ensure they maintain the rigor of college courses and follow a master syllabus approved by the state.

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