Beyond the GED: Bellwether Award

Thinking about getting your GED? What if you could earn college credit at the same time and get a head start on a degree? You can— with RCC’s nationally recognized Concurrent Enrollment Program.

Julie Rossi
Julie Rossi

Led by Adult Basic Skills (ABS) Department Chair Julie Rossi, the Concurrent Enrollment Program (CEP) sets its sights beyond the GED to preparing GED-eligible students for higher education and better job opportunities. Participating students can enroll in GED classes and college-level classes simultaneously, often with free tuition. These college-level courses are prerequisites to RCC Career Pathways programs, which train students in skills that apply to high-demand jobs in health care, business, social services, industrial technology and much more. Eligible English Language Acquisition students can also participate in the program.

“The Concurrent Enrollment Program at Rogue Community College gives our Adult Basic Skills students a jump-start on their college and career,” Julie said. “While many of these students believed or were told they were not college material, they are now on a career pathway to a living wage or better job in our community.”

In 2015, only 25 percent of adults in Jackson County and 14 percent in Josephine County held a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the state average of 32 percent. Yet—did you know? More than 60 percent of top priority job openings in our region require an associate degree or higher. And while hundreds of students were enrolling in RCC’s Adult Basic Skills program, less than 10 percent were enrolling in college within one year of earning their GED. This left a huge skills gap for workers to participate in our local economy. RCC is working to change that.

“We recognized we needed to do a better job of educating our residents so they could fill the community’s economic needs while also providing a better income and future for themselves and their families,” Julie said. “What I see in students is once they experience success in our CEP classes, due to the support we give them, they believe they can do anything.”

In addition to regular coursework, the Concurrent Enrollment Program teaches students how to manage certain life skills needed for staying in school and reaching career goals. Participants are required to attend special sessions where they’ll learn how to complete homework assignments, map out a course schedule, and plan for a job after graduation.

“The first class I took was Psychology 101, and it was super helpful because it got me in a college setting,” said Kerrie Davis, a former CEP student who is now pursuing an associate degree in pre-professional medicine. “Once I accomplished that, I thought maybe I could do this, and then I took another step and I thought, wow, I can’t believe I did that. And then I just kept on going!”

Laura Quintero Anton
Laura Quintero Anton

“The GED program is a good opportunity,” Laura Quintero Anton agreed. When she enrolled in RCC’s Adult Basic Studies department to earn her GED, she was invited to take some college classes through CEP. She now maintains an honors-level GPA and is working toward her associate degree in nursing. “The teachers are always trying to encourage you to be successful in your classes. They encourage you to have a better future for you and your family here.”

To date, 132 students have participated in the Concurrent Enrollment Program, and nearly half have chosen to pursue a degree or certificate program at RCC. This is especially remarkable, considering most of these students would not have thought college was a possibility before they discovered the program.

Mitzi Grannis
Mitzi Grannis

“I took a few classes and got A’s,” said Mitzi Grannis. “and I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I am smart enough to do this.’” Mitzi finished her GED and went on to study for her associate degree in education. Straight A’s in her first two terms. “I don’t know how I am doing it,” she said, smiling and looking around the Redwood Campus tutoring center. “Actually, I do,” she adds. “It’s here. This tutoring center. Study groups. All the support. It’s amazing. You work hard, you get a lot back.”

RCC President Cathy Kemper-Pelle agreed. “Our goal is to inspire our GED students to pursue their dreams, strengthen them through support services, and transform their lives with an education that connects them to living-wage careers in our region. The results of this program have proven this goal is attainable,” she said.

CEP’s success recently captured attention from the Bellwether College Consortium, which granted RCC a top 10 finalist ranking for the 2019 Bellwether Award for excellence in instructional programs and services. RCC was honored at the award ceremony in February 2019 at the Community College Futures Assembly 25th anniversary meeting in San Antonio, Texas. In addition, the program has been recognized as an ACT 2019 Postsecondary Champion of Career and College Readiness for the State of Oregon.

“We are truly proud of the hard work our students and staff put into making this program a success,” Julie said. “To be chosen as a top 10 finalist out of over one thousand applications for the Bellwether Award is a testimony to our CEP participants’ desire and ability to make a better life for themselves and the community we call home.”

For more information about RCC’s Concurrent Enrollment Program, please call one of the following learning centers: Riverside Campus Learning Center in Medford, (541) 245-7701; Table Rock Campus Learning Resource Center in White City, (541) 245-7820; Redwood Campus Learning Center in Grants Pass, (541) 956-7253; or the Kerby Campus Center in Kerby, (541) 956-7455.

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