Many may have a general sense that the educational attainment in our community is low, but did you know that some of our rural communities have fewer than 5 percent of adults with college education?
That means we have high school students who do not have a single person among their family, their friends’ family or even within their neighborhood who understand first-hand what it means to be a college student.
Many high school students live prohibitively far from a community college or CSU. Arvin High School, for example, is at least 30 minutes away by car and depending on public transportation can take hours to get to campus. For many students, these challenges represent significant barriers to attending college, let alone being successful.
Not only is Bakersfield College aware of these challenges, we are working hard to increase the educational attainment of high school students across Kern County. Instead of having students come to us, we bring college closer to home by offering college credit courses to students beginning their first year of high school.
Through collaborative partnerships, Bakersfield College offers college courses at more than 25 high schools throughout Kern County. This program, known as dual enrollment, allows students to receive both college and high school credit simultaneously.
Primarily taught by high school instructors, all of whom meet the minimum qualifications to teach at a California Community College, college courses are offered to students during the high school day. These courses are CSU or UC transferrable, and can be used toward general education requirements or a specific career path.
Dual enrollment gives our community and our young people the opportunity to experience college level courses and gain confidence in their academic success. Considering that in this last academic year we sawa 7,000 enrollment in dual enrollment courses, the potential to positively impact our communities is significant.
National research indicates that students who participate in dual enrollment are more likely to attend college, succeed, and graduate and our local preliminary data at Bakersfield College indicates that students who participated in dual enrollment are twice to three times as likely to attend Bakersfield College.
Given that two-thirds of dual enrollment courses are offered within rural communities like Arvin, Shafter, Delano, Wasco and McFarland, dual enrollment promises to transform Kern County.
While many attend community college to transfer to a four-year university, community college is also an opportunity to gain technical skills needed within local industry. One such partnership is with Wonderful Prep Charter Academy, in which a rigorous program of dual enrollment courses are offered to each entering cohort, with students receiving both a high school degree and an Associate’s degree in Agriculture in four years. At the 104th Bakersfield College commencement on May 11, 38 Wonderful high school students walked across the stage, two weeks before their high school commencement.
Bakersfield College now works with five school districts to provide dual enrollment courses to high school students. As one of the largest programs in the state, Bakersfield College is grateful for the hard work and commitment of our partners, whose efforts have resulted in developing a college going culture among rural Kern County communities. As students are graduating from high school, their futures look bright indeed.
Anna Laven, PhD, is the Dual Enrollment Program Manager at Bakersfield College and has 20 years of service in higher education. The opinions expressed are her own.