December 22, 2019

Two Parishes to Pilot Debt-Free Opportunities for Students

Two Parishes to Pilot Debt-Free Opportunities for Students

Northwest and Southwest Louisiana school systems, colleges, and employers have collaborated to test alternative graduation models that allow certain students to take part in a fifth year of high school to earn career skills and credits towards a college degree, reports Louisiana Believes. The program aims to provide debt-free opportunities for students.

The Extension Academies are two new pilot programs and were approved recently by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana Board of Regents at a joint meeting. Each pilot will last three years and launch in the 2020-2021 school year. It will serve up to 25 students in the first year with hopes to offer debt-free options for students.

State Superintendent John White said about the pilot programs: “The question we used to ask ourselves was how high we could raise our graduation rate and how low we could push our dropout rate. Now we are compelled to ask what happens to our graduates and whether they risk dropping out of work and the economy even after they graduate from high school. If this is the case, even with a small number of students, we must rise to meet this new dropout challenge.”

Kim Hunter Reed, the Commissioner of Higher Education, said “We applaud our partners in education and business for joining together to embrace the opportunity to positively impact these young people at a critical point in their lives. We also look forward to monitoring the results of these pilots as we work collectively to increase talent development in our state.”

The pilot programs are specifically designed to aid students who have are set to graduate from high school but have yet to earn Taylor Opportunity Program for Students scholarships to pay for their post-secondary goals or to acquire post-secondary credentials. For example, in 2018 about 15,000 students who graduated with a TOPS University Diploma pathway weren’t eligible for TOPS scholarships to pay for higher education, and about 3,200 students who graduated on a Jump Start TOPS Tech Career Diploma weren’t on the correct path to earning an advanced industry-based credential so they weren’t eligible for TOPS Tech scholarships.

Through their applications, the regional partners outlined how they plan to provide eligible students a debt-free one-year opportunity to achieve significant progress toward a state-recognized associate’s degree through accelerated dual enrollment college experiences, complete a registered pre-apprenticeship, or earn an advanced industry-based credential. They also detailed types of support and transitional coaching that will be available to participating students as they finish their high school diploma.

The Southwest Consortium is the Extension Academy pilot in the southwest region of Louisiana will bring together nine public schools in Calcasieu Parish and industry partners to supply students opportunities to develop and strengthen skills and training in automotive, HVAC, pharmacy, medicine, and cyber programs.

Director of Career and Technical Education and College Programs for the Calcasieu Parish School Board, Tony McCardle said, “Students will experience a deeper dive into courses and develop richer skill sets that will prepare them to propel beyond the high school experience. Early indications are showing that students are excited about this opportunity, as it will assist them in being fiercely competitive in the high-wage and high-demand workforce.  We are proud to be able to offer this opportunity to our students and community.”

The Northwest Consortium is the Extension Academy pilot in the northwest region of Louisiana will bring together 12 public schools in Caddo Parish and industry partners to supply students opportunities to develop and strengthen skills and training in automotive, HVAC, pharmacy, medicine, and cyber programs.

“What an exciting opportunity for graduating students in the Northwest Consortium that don’t meet TOPS or TOPS Tech to have an additional year toward an associate’s degree or a statewide industry-based credential (IBC). With no tuition cost to the student, eligible participants in the Extension Academy will be full-time students on either Bossier Parish Community College’s campus or Ayers Career College campus. Eligible students also have an opportunity to complete a statewide IBC at Caddo’s Career and Technology Center. This effort will not only enhance what we are able to provide students to assist them as they pursue their desired programs, but also support the work of our school system to ensure all students are prepared for the next step.” said Victor Mainiero, Executive Director of High School Performance for Caddo Parish Public Schools.

For more education related information, click here.

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