Way to Grow

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 EXCELerate expands to offer college classes on more high school campuses

There was a day, in the not-so-distant past, when high school students who wanted to take college credit classes had to leave their high schools and travel to college campuses. This was reason enough for many students to avoid concurrent enrollment. However, in spring 2011, a pilot project called EXCELerate removed the transportation barrier, enabling high school students to take college classes on their high school campuses.

The project, with the approval of the TCC Board of Regents and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, included seven policy exceptions that broadened the scope of students who could take concurrent enrollment. Of the seven exceptions, three were found to be the most beneficial in broadening access:

1.      ACT scores necessary for admission to TCC for students in the pilot are 19 ACT or 2.5
         GPA rather than 21 or 3.5 for juniors and 19 or 3.0 for seniors.

2.      Sophomores are allowed to take a three-credit College Readiness course.

3.       (added April 9, 2012) ACT Plan scores are allowed for satisfying admission  

Today, these policy revisions have transformed concurrent enrollment in the two public high schools that were part of the pilot—Tulsa Public Schools and Union Public Schools—by making college affordable, convenient and accessible.

“The partnership between TPS and TCC through the EXCELerate Program has markedly increased participation in concurrent enrollment,” said Lisa Reynolds, Concurrent/Dual Coordinator of TPS. “Many TPS students lack transportation and/or the funds to participate in traditional on-campus college courses.”

Lisa Witcher, Principal of Class 2013 and Concurrent Enrollment Coordinator at UHS, said the program has allowed students to take college classes at an affordable rate while still being fully engaged in high school.

“On the surface, taking college level classes on the high school campus allows students to stay involved with the culture of UHS,” Witcher said. “Additionally, since Union Public Schools purchases textbooks and TCC has reduced fees and tuition to a small sum, our students benefit economically as well. Many of our graduates are whole semesters ahead in their degree programs thanks to EXCELerate.”

Marisol Trejo, who graduated from TPS’s East Central High School in May, is one of the many students who has benefitted from EXCELerate. She plans to attend TCC in fall 2013 and eventually transfer to the University of Oklahoma to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

In addition to the cost savings and elimination of driving to campus, she said she found EXCELerate beneficial because she was allowed to take a college readiness class, Strategies for Academic Success, as a high school sophomore. She was able to do this because of the OSRHE policy provision that allows qualified high school sophomores to take this specific concurrent enrollment class.

“This course truly helped me and is what motivated me to continue taking college courses,” Trejo said. “Since I was successful in this course I was encouraged to take other courses. I am truly glad I did.”

Even though as a high school sophomore she took college classes that were held on her high school campus, Trejo said she was treated as a college student. She said the classes were different from high school classes because there was more lecturing and less free time, among other things.

“The instructor is not constantly reminding you assignments are due or anything, like it is done in high school,” she said. “College courses make you feel independent since you are treated like an adult.”

Roach said ensuring the quality and rigor of courses is of the utmost importance to everyone behind the EXCELerate program.

“We are ensuring the quality and rigor of courses that are delivered at the high school and community campuses through adherence to Concurrent Enrollment Partnership guidelines. The guidelines were developed by the TCC Faculty Association Concurrent Enrollment (FACE) council based on standards set forth by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP). This national alliance is growing exponentially as more and more high schools that are adding concurrent enrollment on high school campuses want to measure up to NACEP’s standards,” he said.

Ensuring academic quality is measured by strategically gathering data from students. TCC’s Office of Planning and Institutional Research released “Concurrent Enrollment: Impact Study of ‘EXCELerate’ Pilot Project” in June, which reports numerous positive findings. For instance, researchers found that participation in concurrent enrollment more than doubled among African American and Hispanic students in spring 2011 when the EXCELerate Program began. Participation rose among African American students from 2.4 percent to 5.1 percent and among Hispanic students 2.3 percent to 5.1 percent. Overall, concurrent enrollment among TPS and UHS students increased from 21.4 percent to 37.4 percent.

Students have benefited so much, in fact, that EXCELerate is expanding. In fall 2013, TCC is offering college credit classes at 11 additional locations: high schools in Bristow, Bixby, Glenpool, Sapulpa, Sand Springs, Mannford and Cleveland; the TCC Community Campus in Owasso; and approved concurrent sites at Northeastern State University-Broken Arrow, Central Tech-Drumright and Osage Nation Education Center in Hominy.

Staff have been added as well to assist with the expansion. TCC appointed Rick Roach, former Associate Dean of Business and Information Technology, as the Dean of High School Relations and the George Kaiser Family Foundation Endowed Chair of Collegiate Academies. Lissa Steadley, a part-time faculty member at TCC, is the High School Relations Concurrent and EXCELerate Coordinator.

The specifics of EXCELerate at these new locations are slightly different. For instance, the cost of a class will vary slightly for districts that were added after the pilot, but students will still see a large savings compared to paying full price college tuition and fees. However, Roach said they hope to eventually have a model program that is uniform, enabling a natural transition from high school to TCC.

“It’s an opportunity for us to bridge the gap with what students need to be college ready,” Roach said. “Concurrent enrollment is one method we use to bridge the gap. We are giving students a chance for early college success.”


EXCELerate offers general education classes in Composition I, Composition II, Speech, Academic Strategies, College Algebra, U.S. History, American Federal Government, Introduction to Psychology, World Geography-Economics, Nutrition and Art Appreciation.