Students Earn Both High School and College Credits through Great Bay Community College’s Early College Institute

05/04/2016 by Bob Keyes

Seven College-Level Courses offered Starting June 27 at GBCC

PORTSMOUTH - Saren Vigneault removed a half-dozen drawings from her portfolio and spread them neatly across a sun-splashed table in the third-floor art room at Great Bay Community College. “We worked on this one today,” she said, showing a drawing of a fish.

Vigneault, a 16-year old high school junior from Nottingham, is taking a college-level art class this spring through Great Bay’s Early College program, earning high school and college credits at the same time. She took an English composition class in the fall, and plans to take a class or two this summer.

The art class, which meets from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, offers hands-on studio time with a handful of students and an instructor who helps with technique, group discussions and one-on-one critiques. Vigneault is pleased with the art she made this semester at Great Bay, and was especially proud when several of her pieces were displayed publicly at the college this spring. “I’m a better artist, and I feel better about myself and more confident,” she said.

Early College places high school students in a college environment, giving them a jump start on college and exposing them to career ideas. The credits they earn at Great Bay satisfy high school graduation requirements and can be applied toward a degree at Great Bay or transferred to another college or university. Each course costs $250.

“It gets me prepared and puts me ahead of most college freshmen,” said Vigneault, who attends Cocheco Arts and Technology Institute, a charter school in Dover. “I’m taking classes with older students. I have opportunities for more mature conversations and interactions with these intellectuals who are more like adults – because they are adults. It helps me become more like an adult.”

Great Bay’s Early College program appeals to high school students seeking courses usually not available at the high-school level, said Dr. Sarah Bedingfield, Great Bay’s Vice President for Enrollment Services. Great Bay began Early College in fall 2015. Between 25 and 35 students enroll each semester.

“It brings high school juniors and seniors onto the college campus and engaged in college classes with college professors. Not only are they getting the academic content, but they’re also getting the full college experience,” she said. “Students in this program who graduate from high school, will be way ahead of their peers,” Bedingfield said.

They learn skills critical to success at college: How to take notes, how to listen effectively, how to articulate questions, and how to manage their study time. They learn what is expected of a student, and how to get the most of the college experience. Early college students are encouraged to immerse themselves in campus life by  studying at the library,  eating at the Green Bean cafeteria, and participating in student life activities.

During the regular academic year, Early College students can take any course offered at Great Bay. This summer’s Early College Institute offers seven classes: American Sign Language, Medical Terminology, Personal Finance, Drawing, Event Planning, Criminology, and Project Based Composites Manufacturing.

Classes begin June 27 and conclude in late July. Most meet three days weekly, and most classes are in the morning.

“We try to pick courses that appeal to high-school learners and that they can use for their high-school electives,” Bedingfield said. “We set them up so they can do the class in a month, then get out and do their jobs so they can earn some money.”

Great Bay is working with high school counselors to promote the program to students and their parents. The program is new, and early results are encouraging, Bedingfield said; 90 percent of the students have passed their classes with a grade of C or better.

Vigneault heard about the program through a guidance counselor at her charter school. She took the College Board Accuplacer placement test, and began with English Composition in fall 2015. She signed up because it’s a smart way to earn low-cost college credits, she said. She will graduate from high school in June 2017, and plans to attend college with a head start on her peers and a pocketful of transferable college credits.

A goal of the program is exposing Great Bay to more prospective college students, Bedingfield said. “Some will come to Great Bay after they graduate from high school. Some will do this to take credits to another college, and that’s OK too,” Bedingfield said. “We want to encourage students to always advance their academic pursuits.”

In addition to the Early College Institute, Great Bay is offering Summer Link, a college and career readiness program for recent high-school graduates. The program, which earns three college credits, helps students transition from high school to college by teaching skills and behaviors necessary for college and the work place. It runs Aug. 15-26.

College Transitions for Adult Learners targets high-school graduates or GED holders who have been out of school three years or less. It’s a tuition-free program designed to get people who are thinking about college to make the leap. It will be offered in August at Great Bay’s Portsmouth and Rochester campuses. “Their academic skills are rusty and they’re nervous about going to back to school, but they know they need to in order to advance in the workforce,” Bedingfield said. “This program is designed to do just that.”

For information, visit Dual Enrollment