By Brian Woods, Staff Writer
MOUNT LAUREL — Engineering students at the Burlington County Institute of Technology could complete their first year of college while still in high school.
Rowan College at Burlington County is looking to enter into a partnership with BCIT to make it possible for high school students to complete their freshman year of college before ever graduating.
The College Head Start pilot initiative will start in the fall if it gets approval from BCIT’s Board of Education, which is expected to happen near the end of the month. RCBC’s board of trustees approved the initiative Tuesday.
College Head Start would be available to BCIT students who are enrolled in the Electronic and Computer Engineering Technology Academy.
The pilot program will be a new addition to RCBC’s other initiatives in which the school offers high school students college credits, such as the College Acceleration Program and traditional dual enrollment. The difference is that College Head Start will give students a more concise path to a specific RCBC degree.
The College Acceleration Program allows high school students to earn college credit through high school instruction, and dual enrollment allows high school students to take RCBC courses outside of their regular school day. College Head Start would provide a more direct path toward a specific degree, where BCIT engineering students take RCBC courses with RCBC instructors as part of their high school course load.
“You will hear about these types of programs all across the country, and this is different in that there is a direct alignment,” RCBC President Paul Drayton said.
RCBC courses will be offered on BCIT’s Medford Campus, and students will have access to all RCBC student services, such as academic advising, libraries and computer labs.
“It is not just providing students with access to college courses, but it provides access to college courses that align with a degree program here at Rowan College at Burlington County and then also on to Rowan University,” Drayton said.
Mike Cioce, vice president of enrollment management and student success, said courses taken in the College Acceleration Program or Advanced Placement programs, which are offered in high schools throughout the country, may transfer over to the college a student will attend, or a major the student chooses, but they also may not. With College Head Start, credits are guaranteed to transfer.
“This is college course work that is bulletproof as far as its transferability. The idea is there is a structure. They are not haphazardly taking things that may or may not transfer,” Cioce said.
The initiative will provide a clear pathway to an associate degree in engineering with RCBC and then, possibly, a bachelor’s degree at Rowan University
Aside from guaranteed credits, Drayton also believes College Head Start is advantageous because of its cost guarantee. BCIT students who take part in the initiative will pay RCBC’s regular tuition cost, which is one of the lowest in the state.
RCBC’s in-district annual tuition and fees are $4,065 for a full-time student. The college’s per-credit rate is $100.
A large factor in RCBC’s decision to partner with BCIT was because of BCIT’s academy structure and how it appeals to students who already have an idea of what academic direction they want to go in, according to Drayton and Cioce.
Before attending BCIT, students can select an academy that is tailored to the career field they envision themselves going into. The Electronic and Computer Engineering Technology Academy’s curriculum aligned very closely with the engineering program at RCBC, Cioce said.
“This is a great opportunity for our students to get closer to a college degree and a career in technology without high student debt,” said Christopher Nagy, BCIT’s incoming superintendent, in a statement.
Although the pilot program for College Head Start is strictly for BCIT’s engineering academy, Drayton said it is being run with an eye toward the future.
“We will get data back and have a better understanding of what is working well and what we will need to tweak,” he said. “We are committed to expanding this program over the initial phase.”
In future years, RCBC will look to partner with other schools and academic concentrations in order to offer the initiative to more high school students.