How the growth of Eagle County’s dual enrollment program is meeting student and community needs

This fall, 652 Eagle County high school students from the district’s four high schools are enrolled in 50 different dual enrollment classes

Over the past eight years, Colorado Mountain College and the Eagle County School District have grown its dual enrollment program into one of the biggest in the state.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

More Eagle County high school students are earning college credits than ever as the school district’s partnership with the local Colorado Mountain College campus continues to grow.

The Eagle County School District is one of 175 school districts in the state that offers dual enrollment courses. However, its partnership with Colorado Mountain College makes it “one of the largest” partnerships among four-year institutions in Colorado, according to emailed responses from a contingent of district employees.

This group includes Shannon Grant, the district’s director of postsecondary learning and career readiness, Trisha Foreman, its student success coordinator, and Katie Jarnot, its assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

Dual enrollment, also known as concurrent enrollment, classes allow high school students to simultaneously earn college and high school credit. These classes are offered at the district’s four high schools — Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley, Red Canyon and Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy — during the school day and are offered for free.

Over the past few years, it has begun to expand these offerings as well to include six career and technical education pathways. This includes health sciences, design and multimedia as well as digital media and communications pathways at Eagle Valley. At Battle Mountain, it also offers construction trades, design and multimedia as well as hospitality and food production pathways.

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With these, students take a dual enrollment course, earning college and high school credits, but also earn industry certifications as they progress.

This provides students with “hands-on experience in an area of interest and a potential path towards a career,” wrote the Eagle County School District group.

In addition to its primary partnership with Colorado Mountain College, the district has begun to offer dual enrollment and career and technical education pathways with the University of Colorado’s Colorado Springs campus as well. Through this partnership, it is offering biomedical interventions and medical intervention career and technical education courses this year.

During the last school year, 669 Eagle County high school students were enrolled in dual enrollment courses and earned a total of 7,451 credits. Since 2015, it has enrolled 3,556 students who have earned 34,809 college credits.

Already this fall, 652 Eagle County high school students from the district’s four high schools are enrolled in 50 different dual enrollment classes. Collectively, these students will earn 4,333 credits during this first semester.

Because these courses are offered free of charge, students saved $3,480,900 on 2023 tuition rates at Colorado Mountain College.

Emily Delles, the CEPA (Concurrent Enrollment Programs) coordinator at CMC’s Edwards campus, said that as a result of this partnership, almost 50% of its Vail Valley enrollment is concurrent enrollment students.

Meeting student and community need

The classes include both core and non-core subject areas. This year, Delles said that the new classes include Intro to Literature at Battle Mountain and Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, Western Civilization at Eagle Valley and College Chemistry at Battle Mountain.

While the main goal of these concurrent enrollment opportunities is to allow students to “explore different interests or settle in on a pathway early on that they may want to pursue after school,” it also can be an opportunity to address areas of workforce need in the community.

This year, an Intro to Education and Multicultural Education class for Battle Mountain students was added. The course is offered in Spanish at the CMC campus and enables students to earn a seal of literacy in Colorado.

“We’ve added this to allow them to take that class in Spanish and also to support, hopefully, our local teacher workforce by starting students in the education classes while they’re still in high school,” Delles said.

Another example includes the construction trades program, which was started last year at Battle Mountain. In its second year, the program will allow students to get certified through the National Center for Construction and Education Research in addition to gaining a certificate of occupational proficiency from CMC, Delles said.

This, she added, can “put them right into the workforce.”

Its most popular program is the auto program, which Delles said fills three sections every semester. Each semester, students can earn a separate ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) Certificate in areas like brakes, transmission, etc.

“Theoretically, if a student started first-semester, sophomore year, they’d be able to earn six separate certificates by the time they graduate, and have all of those workplace skills and experience already,” Delles said.

The process of adding these new courses is three-fold: first, is understanding what students want and need; second, is finding the right instructors to teach these courses; and third, these courses and career pathways also have to be offered by one of the district’s collegiate partners.

To better determine where demand for the courses lies, the district has implemented a new platform, Xello, as part of its multi-year Individual Career and Academic Plans process. Now, students in grades six through 11 use Xello, which gives the district a sense of career interests. This can allow the district to add new courses that are aligned with what students are looking for. However, it’s not always that simple.

“We try to be responsive to student interest, but our programming is often also driven by staffing. Teachers must be credentialed to teach both DE and CTE classes, so our offerings are dependent on the availability of qualified teachers,” the district cohort wrote.

However, from students, the district has learned that they want a variety of dual enrollment options, not just core content classes.

“Students have specifically requested more DE classes in areas of interest or non-core classes to be able to try a college class in an area they are interested in and/or hope to pursue as a career,” the district group wrote. “We value this as it sometimes provides a pathway for students to experience success ‘at college’ and build confidence and want to continue.”

Looking at the future of the program, the goal is not only to continue meeting students’ interests but also to ensure that all students have equal access to these programs.

“I really just want to maintain the integrity of the program as far as academic rigor, make sure that the offerings are equitable across schools but also within the school so that every type of student is able to access our classes and has those opportunities,” Delles said.

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