The number of high school students receiving college instruction during their school day continues to grow, thanks to the Kansas Legislature’s decision to pay for their tuition on technical education courses.
In a report presented Thursday to the Barton Community College Board of Trustees, Dean Elaine Simmons described changes in outreach services in the college’s service region. Simmons heads the department of Workforce Training & Community Education.
“When I joined the college in 1984 ... ‘outreach’ meant we were offering classes at night,” she said. “We did that in our seven-county service area. It ran for years.”
Barton’s original seven-county service area includes Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush, Ellsworth, Russell and Stafford counties. There are now classrooms at Fort Riley, Grandview Plaza and Fort Leavenworth, and partnerships in other locations.
Changes over the years included Saturday classes and interactive television (ITV), but outreach education changed dramatically with the rise in online education.
“We’re not just the seven-county service area,” Simmons said. “We are also regional, we’re national, we’re international.”
In the central Kansas region, outreach instruction is going on at area high schools, or at the request of employers seeking people with specific job skills. Correctional facilities at Ellsworth and Larned (adult and juvenile) are also receiving BCC instruction.
High school students were already using the College Advantage program, which allows them to earn college credits while still in high school. On July 1, 2012, Senate Bill 155 went into effect, paying the tuition fee for career courses taught to high school students.
Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said the funding for the bill has continued, and will be requested again in 2015 by the Kansas Board of Regents. Participation is rising throughout most of the state, although not in the Greater Kansas City area, he said.
“Students are participating in an array of career technical education,” Simmons said. “In Larned, it’s huge.” At Larned High School, students have a classroom dedicated to online instruction from BCC. Barton County high schools also work worth the college. Students at various schools are enrolling in automotive technology classes, Emergency Medical Service programs and Certified Nursing Assistant programs, for example.
Meanwhile, on Aug. 1, BCC received a new three-year contract with the Kansas Department of Corrections to continue offering courses at Ellsworth and Larned. These also include (or will include) vocational classes, such as welding, carpentry and plumbing.
A program called A-OK allows adult students in communities and in KDOC institutions to work toward a GED diploma at the same time they work on career classes.
In the area workforce, outreach eduction has a number of opportunities. Simmons said she is still working on the projected costs of a welding program on campus. She has met with several employers who would like to see this type of training offered.
EMS training is offered in Great Bend, Hays, Junction City, Salina, Topeka and Pratt. This is an area where BCC could expand, including more EMS instruction on high school campuses, Simmons said. But finding equipment for more health-care classes is a challenge, because of the expense.
While outreach education has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, Simmons said it will no doubt continue to change. “What your customer wants does not remain the same.”