Owens Community College wants to help high school dropouts not only drop back in to get their diploma but to go to college too.
With the help of a $325,000 start-up grant from the Gateway to College National Network, Owens plans to launch a dropout-recovery program in conjunction with Toledo Public Schools. The first 50 students are to be enrolled next fall.
"Many students have dropped out of high school and they don't want to go back to the high school; they want to be in a more adult atmosphere," said Tamara Williams, associate vice provost for academic services and retention at Owens. "This is a way for us to help them find a new pathway for them to be successful, so it's huge for us. We're the first institution in Ohio to be awarded the grant."
TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko, who is focused on improving the district's 80.5 percent graduation rate, said he's excited by the possibilities.
"My hopes and our hopes as a school district are that we will be able to give hundreds more youth in our community a second chance at finishing not only high school and getting a high school diploma but in addition to that, getting a start to their college education and eventually getting a degree," he said.
Through the Gateway to College program, up to 150 students and dropouts from Toledo Public Schools will be enrolled in the program over the next three years. It is open to young adults ages 16 to 21 who either have dropped out or are still in school but are so far behind in credits that they're unlikely to graduate.
Participants in the program will be enrolled at both TPS and Owens until they earn their high school diploma. Tuition, books, even public transportation, will be provided free while they're in the program.
"There is also what I call a wrap-around type of service," Mr. Pecko said. "Each student will have a one-on-one adviser to work with them, to be a personal coach for them. That's huge."
Initially, students will be placed in small learning communities where they will take classes at Owens in reading, writing, math, and college skills. After that, they will take for-credit classes with the general student population at Owens.
Once they complete their high school diploma, they will graduate from the Gateway to College program. Ms. Williams said the goals of the Gateway program are three-fold.
"We want to make sure students who have dropped out of high school or who are on the verge of not completing high school are moving to a program that best suits them so No. 1, they get a high school diploma -- not a GED, but a diploma," she said.
"Two, while they're in high school, they'll obtain college credit and eventually think about going on to get a two-year degree, and three, we want to make sure we impact the economic status of northwest Ohio. For us, it is a recruitment tool because once they complete their high school diploma, our goal is to not let them go but to keep them in college."
Nationwide, some 37 community and technical colleges offer the Gateway to College program. In 2009-10, 54 percent of the students enrolled in the programs completed their high school diploma. On average, the graduates earned 37 college credit hours during their time in the program, according to the Gateway Web site.
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