“College in High School” Program Eases Transition

By offering tuition-free college classes on the high school campus, along with direct access to college counselors for increased student support, Sierra College is helping to make the transition from high school to college much less daunting.

Getting an Early Start Can Lead to Increased Student Success

Recent research from Columbia University’s Community College Research Center suggests that dual enrollment, or taking college classes during high school, can improve students’ chances of earning a college degree. According to the study, sixty-one percent of California’s dual enrollment students went on to earn a bachelor’s degree. Dual enrollment, or “College in High School” as it is known at Sierra, has also been shown to increase retention and reduce tuition expenses, according to EdSource, a California-based educational research organization.

A Student’s Perspective: Taking the “Fear” Out of Going to College

Anthony Toro took College in High School courses for two semesters while he attended Colfax High School. Toro said, “I chose to participate in the program because it was offered for classes I was interested in, and it presented a good opportunity to earn college credits.”

Toro earned eight college credits for Spanish and statistics, and the courses he took were offered right at his high school. “I experienced what college-level classes were like,” Toro said. “And it allowed me to earn college credit ahead of time.” A big benefit of the program for Toro was being able to take the classes in a familiar environment. “This took away some of the fear behind the word ‘college’ in my experience.”

Toro hopes others will reap the benefits of taking college classes at high school. “I would recommend Sierra's College in High School program to other high school students because it allows them to get a head start in their college requirements and lets them experience the difficulty of college-level classes and how a college-level class functions.”

Now, Toro is a successful full-time student at Sierra College majoring in mechatronics and engineering. He plans to graduate from Sierra in Fall 2019 with a goal toward “gaining work experience in my field and continuing my education for a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechatronics.”

Sierra College Transition Counselors Offer One-On-One Support

Success stories like Toro’s aren’t isolated experiences; in fact, they are becoming increasingly common, in large part due to Sierra College’s outstanding transition counselors.

Rachel Stevenson is one of the new college transition counselors working on twenty-six high school campuses across the district since 2017. She is both a high school counselor for the Placer Union High School District, and a college transition counselor for Sierra College. Because of her dual roles, she is powerfully positioned to catapult students into college success.

Stevenson related, “High school students have more direct access to the college transition counselors since they are right on their high school campuses. There is also a greater level of comfort that the high school students have with counselors that they most likely already know and who know them.” With this close relationship, Stevenson is uniquely equipped to help students prepare for their transition to college.

College in High School opportunities are presented to students through counselor presentations and course preview days where instructors who teach the college classes talk with interested students, Stevenson noted. Additionally, information is emailed to parents and students, and the courses are listed in both school course catalogs and online.

The embedded Sierra counselors also provide information about support programs such as the Sierra Promise, which helps students fast track their educational goals, and First Year Free which gives first-time community college students who are California residents free tuition for their first year. Students enrolled in the College in High School courses have access to tutoring resources offered through Sierra College that they wouldn't otherwise be able to access, Stevenson added.  

College in High School classes offer students a taste of college and prepare them for more rigorous coursework. Stevenson said, “Students need to be disciplined and self-motivated to be successful. College in High School teachers and high school counselors stress to students that a college transcript will follow, so getting good grades is important.” In addition to earning college credit, Stevenson related that students also gain “the confidence and belief in themselves that they can be a successful college student.”

Stevenson knows that College in High School courses bolster student success. “I believe that College in High School classes help to raise the bar for students. It helps to put another level of importance on doing well in the course as a whole because it's not just high school credits they are earning.”

So far, the feedback on the new college transition counselor program has been overwhelmingly positive. “Parents have shared with me that they are grateful for the resource and appreciate how much Sierra College is doing to support their students,” Stevenson said. “I feel I have helped students see the opportunities that Sierra College has to offer and that obtaining a degree or certificate is something they can definitely do.”

Helping More Students Reach Their Goals

With Sierra College’s new transition counselors in high schools, more students are taking advantages of the programs that can help them succeed in higher education, including the tools and resources they need to be successful in earning college credit while still in high school.

Sierra proudly partners with local high schools to help students with college readiness, educational planning, applications, financial aid, and enrollment. As Sierra’s programs continue to flourish and grow, increasing numbers of students will be able to reach their educational goals.