A proposal to provide five college courses concurrent with high school classes is gaining support in Topeka. Blake Flanders, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Board of Regents, talked about the plan Friday during a visit to the Barton Community College campus.
During a luncheon attended by Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman and several members of the BCC Board of Trustees, Flanders was asked about plans in Topeka for higher education. Five three-hour courses are being identified for concurrent high school and college enrollment, with no tuition cost to students: English Composition I, English Composition II, Public Speaking, Psychology and College Algebra.
“Barton embraces the accessibility for high school students,” Heilman said, noting concurrent enrollment can also help make college education more affordable. College presidents have concerns about the proposal, however. After the Kansas Legislature approved Senate Bill 155 in 2012, the state was supposed to help pay tuition for high school students enrolled in career and technical education at a community or technical college. But by 2015, schools were not receiving the full monetary incentive they expected from the state.
The Wichita Eagle reported that last year, SB 155 cost $24.5 million, but the Legislature and governor only passed $20.8 million in funding. Right now, colleges pick up the unfunded costs.
Flanders said perhaps a pilot program of one course would be better than five.
“Maybe we try to deliver one course first across the state, see how that works, see what we learned,” he said. “There are always some unanticipated issues. With Senate Bill 155 we just started delivering right out of the gate.” He compared that to building an airplane while flying it. “That’s much more difficult, I think, than if we pilot.”
But the reasoning behind the proposal has merit, he said.
“Why should we deliver college courses to high school students? Here’s what we know: students who are successful in concurrent courses while in high school do much better and have much better results when they transition into college,” he said.
Years ago, students who graduated from the eighth grade could decide whether they would enter the workforce or go on to high school.
“We’re fixated on the K-12 experience right now,” Flanders said. Today, however, students need some education beyond high school, whether it’s a certificate, a two-year nursing degree or a baccalaureate. “With that backdrop, we think, concurrent becomes very important.”
Already Kansas does very well in this area, Flanders said. “You don’t have to be bad to get better.”
A couple of groups have been working on details as they work toward developing a recommendation to the Legislature. Part of the discussion includes the rate of reimbursement to the schools. Flanders said KBOR will make a presentation this week to the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisurg).
Concurrent credit isn’t right for every student, Flanders said. “We don’t want students enrolling in courses when they’re not prepared and creating a college transcript that becomes a disadvantage.”
Flanders spent part of the day with members of Barton’s newest Leadership Institute. Retired Brigadier General Phil Mattox, Manhattan, also spoke to the group. This is the second class of Barton employees chosen for the institute, created to grow the next generation of administrators or managers from within the current workforce.